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Theory of planned behavior

General theories and models[edit]

Each behavioural change theory or model focuses on different factors in attempting to explain behaviour change. Of the many that exist, the most prevalent are learning theoriessocial cognitive theory, theories of reasoned action and planned behaviourtranstheoretical model of behavior change, the health action process approach and the BJ Fogg model of behavior change. Research has also been conducted regarding specific elements of these theories, especially elements like self-efficacy that are common to several of the theories.

Self-efficacy[2] is an individual’s impression of their own ability to perform a demanding or challenging task such as facing an exam or undergoing surgery. This impression is based upon factors like the individual’s prior success in the task or in related tasks, the individual’s physiological state, and outside sources of persuasion. Self-efficacy is thought to be predictive of the amount of effort an individual will expend in initiating and maintaining a behavioural change, so although self-efficacy is not a behavioural change theory per se, it is an important element of many of the theories, including the health belief model, the theory of planned behaviour and the health action process approach.

From behaviourists such as B. F. Skinner come the learning theories, which state that complex behaviour is learned gradually through the modification of simpler behaviours. Imitation and reinforcement play important roles in these theories, which state that individuals learn by duplicating behaviours they observe in others and that rewards are essential to ensuring the repetition of desirable behaviour. As each simple behaviour is established through imitation and subsequent reinforcement, the complex behaviour develops. When verbal behaviour is established the organism can learn through rule-governed behaviour and thus not all action needs to be contingency shaped.

According to the social learning theory[3] (more recently expanded as social cognitive theory[4]), behavioural change is determined by environmental, personal, and behavioural elements. Each factor affects each of the others. For example, in congruence with the principles of self-efficacy, an individual’s thoughts affect their behaviour and an individual’s characteristics elicit certain responses from the social environment. Likewise, an individual’s environment affects the development of personal characteristics as well as the person’s behavior, and an individual’s behaviour may change their environment as well as the way the individual thinks or feels. Social learning theory focuses on the reciprocal interactions between these factors, which are hypothesised to determine behavioral change.