SOBC 101: The Science Of Behavior Change for Psychological Scientists
Date: Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Time: 2:00 to 3:00 pm ET
It is well established that health behaviors such as physical activity, sleep, diet, and medication adherence are strong predictors of greater longevity and lower occurrence of adverse medical events. Nevertheless, it remains largely unknown how to develop effective interventions to alter these health behaviors. Research psychologists with training in experimental methodology are uniquely positioned to measure and systematically identify the operative factors underling successful behavior change. A core principle of the National Institutes of Health’s Science Of Behavior Change (SOBC) initiative is that a causal understanding of the means of shifting behaviors may be achieved by following the systematic scientific approach used in experimental medicine: focusing on how a behavioral intervention (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy) can engage a hypothetical psychological mechanism (e.g., worry) that can be assessed with a valid and reliable measure.
Critically, if intervention-related changes in that measured psychological mechanism are associated with desired changes in a behavioral outcome of interest (e.g., physical activity), then the measured construct is a validated mechanism by which the behavior can be changed. SOBC offers key resources to behavioral scientists, including its measures repository, which tracks over one hundred wide-ranging measures of putative mechanisms of behavior change as they are either validated or not validated using the experimental medicine approach. Until recently, SOBC has consisted of a relatively small network of a scientists investigating hypothesized mechanisms of behavior change in projects supported by the NIH Common Fund. However, SOBC is now expanding to invite a broad array of basic and applied scientists to measure and manipulate proposed mechanisms of change.
In this webinar we provide an overview of select SOBC projects that investigate a variety of health behaviors using a variety of interventions and hypothesized mechanistic targets. We describe the fundamental steps of applying the SOBC approach, current and planned electronic resources for conducting rigorous behavior change research, current grant mechanisms that support this approach, the wide variety of existing and potential SOBC projects, and the expanded scope of the next phase of SOBC that has just begun. The webinar is offered as an introduction to invite attendees to register for the virtual two-day SOBC Capstone Conference occurring on February 22-23, 2021.
Michael W. Otto, PhD, Professor of Psychological and Brain Science, Boston University
Jeffrey L. Birk, PhD, Instructor in Medical Sciences, Columbia University Irving Medical Center