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Program Snapshot

The Science of Behavior Change (SOBC)
program 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. The SOBC Program aims to implement a mechanisms-focused, experimental medicine approach to behavior change research and to develop the tools required to implement such an approach. The experimental medicine approach involves: identifying an intervention target, developing assays (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. 



Program Highlights

NEW! Financial Incentives can Increase the Effectiveness of Smoking Cessation Programs

Financial incentive-based programs can be very effective in helping people to quit smoking. Read more...

Breaking Bad Habits: Summary of a Recent Meeting Hosted by the NIH Common Fund Science of Behavior Change Program


Happiness Examined From the Molecular Level: New Study Findings Reveal a Link Between Well-Being, Health, and Our Genomes



Unhealthy behaviors—such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, and a sedentary lifestyle—contribute to negative health outcomes and common diseases. These types of behaviors account for approximately 40 percent of the risk associated with preventable premature deaths in the United States. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to initiate and maintain healthy behavior changes over an extended period of time.

The Common Fund’s Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) program aims to improve our understanding of behavior change across a broad range of health-related behaviors. The program supports research that integrates basic and translational science and cuts across many disciplines. The SOBC program seeks to implement a mechanisms-focused approach to behavior change research and to develop the tools required to implement such an approach. One particular health behavior—adherence to medical regimens—provides a particularly compelling test of this approach. Non-adherence to medical regimens is a significant health problem that is an exemplar for the general behavioral intervention goal of initiating and maintaining behavior change.

Stage 1 of the SOBC program sought to improve our understanding of basic mechanisms of human behavior change across a broad array of health-related behaviors and to use this knowledge to develop more effective behavioral interventions.

Research funded during Stage 1 led to the identification of three broad classes of intervention targets that are highly relevant to understanding the mechanisms of behavior change: self-regulationstress reactivity and stress resilience, and interpersonal and social processes

Stage 2 of the SOBC program, which began in FY2015, intends to undertake the following: 

  • Explore behavioral intervention targets that play a putative role in behavior change, have clear potential to be measured, and have a plausible intervention strategy.
  • Support activities to inform a mechanistic approach to intervention research on adherence to medical regimens.
  • ​Disseminate advances that are made as a result of the SOBC program to the NIH community and the behavior change research field.
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