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Behaviour change and theories of practice: Contributions, limitations and developments

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This paper considers the role that theories of social practice can play in offering new insights into policymaking and practical interventions for behavioural and social change.


This is a conceptual paper. It provides a brief overview of the key features of practice theories pertinent to the field of behavioural and social change and critically reviews practice theoretical literature relevant to the field.


The paper argues that a social practice perspective offers more robust accounts of how social and behavioural change comes about than conventional approaches and offers novel insights and targets for interventions. Practice theories have made the most direct contribution to behaviour change in the context of sustainable consumption but offer insights to a range of empirical domains relevant to social business, including health promotion and organisational change.


The efficacy of a social practice approach to behaviour change has yet to be empirically established and will require the development of a new evidence base. Implications Ongoing dialogue is needed between theoretical development, empirical research and practical interventions utilising practice theories.


The paper's contribution is to review recent developments in practice theory, acknowledge the limitations of existing approaches and suggest potential routes to overcome them.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2017

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