Conceptualising Four Categories of Behaviours: Implications for Implementation Strategies to Achieve Behaviour Change

Per Nilsen*, Sebastian Potthoff, Sarah A. Birken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
96 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Effectiveness of implementation strategies is influenced by the extent to which they are based on appropriate theories concerning the behaviours that the strategies intend to impact. Effectiveness may be limited simply because the strategies are based on theories that are limited in scope or are derived from partially inaccurate assumptions about the behaviours in question. It may therefore be important to combine insights from various theories to cover the range of influences on the behaviours that will be changed. Aim: This article aims to explore concepts, theories and empirical findings from different disciplines to categorise four types of behaviours and discuss the implications for implementation strategies attempting to change these behaviours. Influences on behaviours: Multilevel influences on behaviours are dichotomized into individual-level and collective-level influences, and behaviours that are guided by conscious cognitive processes are distinguished from those that rely on non-conscious processing. Combining the two dimensions (levels and cognitive modes) creates a 2 x 2 conceptual map consisting of four categories of behaviours. Explicitly conceptualising the levels and cognitive modes is crucial because different implementation strategies are required depending on the characteristics of the behaviours involved in the practise that needs to be changed. Conclusion: The 2 x 2 conceptual map can be used to consider and reflect on the nature of the behaviours that need to be changed, thus providing guidance on the type of theory, model or framework that might be most relevant for understanding and facilitating behaviour change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number795144
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Health Services
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2022


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