Science of Behavior Change
Since 2016, scientists at the Center For Behavioral Cardiovascular Health (CBCH) have led the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) Resource and Coordinating Center (RCC), to identify synergies among the many research programs supported by the SOBC program and to conduct outreach to behavioral scientists and the public. The overarching goal of the SOBC program is to improve our collective understanding of human behavior change across a broad range of health-related behaviors. The core mission of SOBC is to bring basic, clinical, and translational scientists across disciplines together-- to identify the underlying neural, cognitive, affective, interpersonal, and environmental mechanisms that bring about behavior change. The RCC’s role has evolved over time to focus on the broad dissemination and uptake of the rigorous experimental medicine approach, to serve as the framework for all behavioral scientists to identify the mechanisms that drive behavior change, and to communicate scientific advances using a common language across disciplines. Briefly, to use the experimental medicine approach: (1) identify hypothesized mechanisms of behavior change, (2) develop reliable measures of those mechanisms, (3) conduct experiments to influence those mechanisms, and/or (4) test whether influencing a hypothesized mechanism indeed yields behavior change.
Our activities at the SOBC Resource and Coordinating Center (RCC; https://scienceofbehaviorchange.org/) included supporting scientists across the 19 NIH-funded projects throughout the United States in their efforts to employ the experimental medicine approach. Further, we created and continue to expand and improve a SOBC Measures Repository, which contains a broad range of measures used in behavioral research, including measures of hypothesized mechanisms identified in the SOBC-supported studies to date. The RCC continues to develop and nurture a large network of scientists, and to seek out ways to ingrain this method in research design across disciplines.
The SOBC RCC was previously funded for 5-years by the NIH Common Fund (https://commonfund.nih.gov/behaviorchange) and, due to its success, has now been renewed and supported directly by multiple institutes across the NIH.
What is the Science of Behavior Change (SOBC)?
SOBC Research Network seeks to promote basic research on the initiation, personalization, and maintenance of behavior change. By integrating work across disciplines, this effort will lead to an improved understanding of the underlying principles of behavior change.
Behaviors are among the most important factors that determine whether people will live long, healthy lives. Researchers need a way to better identify the mechanisms that make behavior change efforts successful, so that we can quickly find out what works – and what doesn't. We strongly encourage a common method that aims to reveal how and why people start and sustain healthy behaviors. This approach benefits scientists and the public by providing blueprints for effective and efficient behavior change interventions that reliably improve health and well-being.
The SOBC Research Network seeks to promote the use of the experimental medicine approach in the development of early-phase, evidence-based behavioral interventions. By integrating work across disciplines, this effort will lead to an improved understanding of the underlying principles of behavior change.
The experimental medicine approach to behavior change research is focused on the identification of mechanisms that underly successful or unsuccessful behavior change. SOBC develops tools and resources to make this approach easy to deploy across many different behaviors. The experimental medicine approach involves identifying an intervention target, developing measures to permit verification of the target, engaging the target through experimentation or intervention, and testing the degree to which target engagement produces the desired behavior change.
The Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) website was first launched in 2016. The website serves as a digital destination for scientists from around the world to learn about our program, for our own SOBC scientists to stay connected and collaborate, and for the general public to gain insight into the world of behavioral science.
A cornerstone of the website is the SOBC Measures Repository, which allows users to view and download existing self-report measures and behavioral tasks, or to upload new measures for use in behavioral science or related fields (https://measures.scienceofbehaviorchange.org/). The Measures Repository presently hosts over 180 measures, many of which have been used to measure hypothesized mechanisms of behavior change in SOBC-funded studies. In 2020, the RCC renamed the Measures Repository, because we have begun to expand the resource by offering behavioral intervention protocols and behavioral outcome assessments. It is now the SOBC Repository.
The SOBC program facilitates open behavioral science, and the SOBC Repository is designed to help researchers conduct behavioral science that is rigorous, reproducible, and transparent, both by offering measures with detailed validation data to aid in cross-disciplinary measurement consistency, and by making preregistration and documentation to the Open Science Framework automatic and simple. Details of all the SOBC projects are available on the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/zp7b4/).