A dynamic workshop featuring the Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) was held at the Association for Psychological Science (APS) on May 25, 2017, in Boston. This pre-conference workshop was entitled “Bringing an Experimental Medicine Approach to Behavior Change Research: A Hands-On Introduction to the NIH Science of Behavior Change Program and Its Method.” The half-day event was organized by the Research Coordinating Center of SOBC with presentations and hands-on guidance provided by Dr. Donald Edmondson, the Director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center, and Dr. Jennifer Sumner, an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the same institute.

The workshop aimed to introduce the SOBC method to a broad array of psychological scientists, to demonstrate how these scientists and the world at large will benefit from a wider application of the method, and to give practical experience in using SOBC principles to guide research on behavior change. The workshop began with talks by Dr. Edmondson and Dr. Sumner about the need for scientists to adopt a shared, systematic approach that yields a growing knowledge base about what truly leads behaviors to change – i.e., the need to build knowledge about the mechanisms of behavior change. They also introduced the logical progression of steps underlying the method. Attendees split into smaller groups to discuss examples of published studies and to practice recognizing the SOBC method in print. The workshop concluded with a collaborative writing exercise focused on creating successful applications for grant funding for scientific research using the SOBC framework. Click here to go to the Resources page to obtain workshop materials, which will guide you through the process of writing a Specific Aims page for SOBC-relevant grants.

The workshop attendees were a diverse group of approximately two dozen psychological scientists ranging in background from full professors to post-doctoral researchers to undergraduate students. These scientists were able to discuss the SOBC method with several high-level NIH administrators also attending the event. Many of the attendees were thankful for the introduction to the SOBC method as evidenced by numerous positive comments made at the close of the workshop, both in-person and in written, anonymous reviews. Some were especially enthusiastic about the detailed, hands-on, educational aspects of the event, such as the undergraduate attendee who wrote, “the information was very organized, comprehensive, and even applicable to current projects/research I am working on.” One attendee commented that “the hands-on part of the workshop was really useful, not only for applying the SOBC framework but also for learning how to recognize it,” and remarked how important it was to see researchers leading the workshop who were dedicated to the SOBC mission. Several were genuinely inspired to take on the SOBC mission, such as the attendee who confidently wrote, “We’ll change the world!”

There will be similar SOBC events and workshops in the future. If you would like to join the SOBC mailing list to hear about the latest upcoming events, resources, and news, please contact us or subscribe below. We hope to hear from you soon!