The Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) Research Network seeks to improve the understanding of underlying mechanisms of human behavior change by promoting basic research on the initiation, personalization, and maintenance of behavior change. SOBC aims to bring together basic and applied scientists to support mechanistic research across health-related behaviors, such as diet, exercise, and medication adherence, in order to develop more effective behavioral interventions.
Research funded during SOBC Stage 1 (2009-2014) identified three broad classes of intervention targets that are highly relevant to the mechanisms relating to behavior change: self-regulation, stress reactivity and stress resilience, and interpersonal and social processes. During Stage 1, SOBC researchers determined the need for reliable and valid ways to measure engaged targets through experimental manipulation or interventions. This measurement focus has been the foundation for the current phase of SOBC research (Stage 2), which began in 2015.
The SOBC experimental medicine approach to behavior change science involves a three-step method of validation: Identify, Measure, and Influence. Researchers first identify a hypothesized mechanism driving behavior change, then develop valid measures of the target mechanism, and finally attempt to influence the target mechanism with experimental methods. When a change in the mechanism results in an observed change in behavior, we determine that the identified mechanism is indeed a valid mechanism of behavior change. Our goal is to use the results of this method to optimize behavior change interventions across disciplines.
The SOBC Research Network is funded by the SOBC Common Fund Program in the Office of Strategic Coordination, Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Common Fund programs have goals that resonate with the missions of multiple Institutes, Centers, and Offices at the NIH and its programs are intended to be transformative, catalytic, synergistic, cross-cutting, and unique. NIH staff from more than 15 Institutes, Centers, and Offices are involved in the SOBC Common Fund Program, and several of them are active members of the SOBC Research Network as Program Officials and Project Scientists associated with Network projects.