The Behaviour Change Wheel

The Behaviour Change Wheel is a practical framework for understanding and applying behaviour change. Focused on a particular behaviour, it examines factors that influence it and helps in creating customised change strategies. It's helpful in areas like health promotion, organisational change, or personal development. The process includes defining the behaviour, identifying what influences it, creating interventions, and assessing the results. This model is key for focused change initiatives, making sure strategies match the behavioural motivations for effective implementation and modification.

What is it? 

The Behavioural Change Wheel is a tool designed to help understand and bring about change in behaviour. Imagine a wheel: at its centre is the behaviour you want to change. Surrounding this are various components that influence behaviour, like a series of spokes and layers that support and direct the wheel. This wheel is not just about identifying what needs to change but also about understanding the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind these changes. 

Sour:ce: Dr. Lou Atkins (Auteur), Prof. Robert West (Auteur), Prof. Susan Michie, May 2014, The Behaviour Change Wheel

Useful for: 

The Behavioural Change Wheel is used for:

      1. Understanding Behaviour: It helps in breaking down the factors that contribute to a particular behaviour.

      1. Designing Change Strategies: By identifying these factors, it becomes easier to develop targeted strategies for change.

      1. Implementing Change: It provides a structured approach to modifying behaviour, whether in individuals, groups, or larger populations.


    This tool is incredibly versatile and can be applied in various scenarios, such as:

        • In Health Promotion: For designing campaigns that encourage healthier lifestyle choices.

        • In Organizational Change: To help employees adopt new processes or cultural shifts.

        • In Personal Development: For individuals looking to change their habits or behaviours.


      Step 1: Define the Behaviour

      Identify the behaviour you want to change. Be as specific as possible.

      Step 2: Understand the Behaviour 

      Analyse the behaviour in-depth. What triggers it? What are its consequences? What are the beliefs and attitudes surrounding it?

      Step 3: Identify Influencing Factors

      Look at the factors that influence this behaviour. These can be internal, like a person’s skills or emotions, or external, like their physical environment or social influences. We call them the sources of behaviour. 

      Sources of Behaviour Description
      Capability: Psychological Knowledge, skill and strength to engage in a mental activity
      Capability: Physical Physical skill, strength
      Motivation: Automatic Automatic response, reflex
      Motivation: Reflective: The reflective process involving the plans and evaluations to perform a particular behaviour.
      Opportunity: Physical Opportunity afforded by the environment involving: time, location …
      Opportunity: Social Opportunity afforded due to interpersonal influence.


      Target Behaviour Hospital staff to disinfect their hands using alcohol gel in identified high risk situations.

      COM-B components What needs to happen for the target behaviour to occur? Is there a need for change? 
      Physical capability  Have the physical skills to clean hands No change needed as hospital staff have these skills
      Psychological capability  Know the correct technique to clean hands No change needed as knowledge of hand cleaning techniques is sufficient
        Know how to create ‘if-then’ rules to prompt hand cleaning Change needed as hospital staff do not necessarily know how to create and routinely apply if-then rules
      Physical opportunity  Have alcohol gel available No change needed as gel is available at each bedside
      Social opportunity  See senior health professionals clean their hands using alcohol gel Change needed as staff do not always see seeing senior health professionals cleaning their hands using alcohol gel
      Reflective motivation  Hold beliefs that using alcohol gel more frequently will reduce infection transmission  No change needed as research literature shows staff old these beliefs
        Believing that consistent hand hygiene will require improved cognitive and self-regulation skills Change needed as staff do not necessarily recognise the value of these skills 
      Automatic motivation Have established routines and habits for hand cleaning Change needed to establish routine and habit formation

      Step 4: Develop Intervention Strategies: 

      Based on your understanding, develop strategies that address these influencing factors. This could involve education, motivation, or changes in the environment.

      Intervention Function Description
      Education Increase knowledge and understanding about a subject.
      Persuasion Using a message to change people’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. 
      Incentivisation Creating the expectation of reward.
      Coercion Making or changing the rules / laws. 
      Training Teaching a skill
      Enablement Reduce barriers to increase specific capability and/or opportunity. 
      Modelling Providing an example for people to aspire to.
      Environmental restructuring Changing the physical and/or social context
      Restrictions Using rules and restrictions to limit the use of a competing behaviour.


      Intervention function  Definition Example of intervention function
      Education Increasing knowledge or understanding  Providing information to promote healthy eating
      Persuasion Using communication to induce positive or negative feelings or stimulate action  Using imagery to motivate increases in physical activity
      Incentivisation Creating an expectation of reward Using prize draws to induce attempts to stop smoking
      Coercion Creating an expectation of punishment or cost Raising the financial cost to reduce excessive alcohol consumption
      Training Imparting skills  Advanced driver training to increase safe driving
      Restriction Using rules to reduce the opportunity to engage in the target behaviour (or to increase the target behaviour by reducing the opportunity to engage in competing behaviours) Prohibiting sales of solvents to people under 18 to reduce use for intoxication
      Environmental restructuring Changing the physical or social context Providing on-screen prompts for GPs to ask about smoking behaviour 
      Modelling Providing an example for people to aspire to or imitate Using TV drama scenes involving safe-sex practices to increase condom use
      Enablement Increasing means/reducing barriers to increase capability (beyond education and training) or opportunity (beyond environmental restructuring) Behavioural support for smoking cessation, medication for cognitive deficits, surgery to reduce obesity, prostheses to promote physical activity

      Step 5: Implement the Change

      Put your strategies into action. This might involve rolling out a program, conducting workshops, or making environmental adjustments.

      Step 6: Evaluate and Adjust

      Finally, evaluate the effectiveness of your changes. Are they working? If not, what can be adjusted for better results?


      1. Lou Atkins, Robert West, Susan Michie, 2014, The Behaviour Change Wheel, Silverback Publishing. 
      2. Social Change UK. (n.d.). A guide on the COM-B Model of Behaviour
      3. UK’s Medical Research Council, (2010-2013), Behavioural Change Techniques Taxonomy Projec,
      4. Michie, S., Richardson, M., Johnston, M., Abraham, C., Francis, J., Hardeman, W., Wood, C. E. (2013). The behaviour change technique taxonomy (v1) of 93 hierarchically clustered techniques: building an international consensus for the reporting of behaviour change interventions. Ann Behav Med, 46(1), 81-95. 
      5. Barker, F., Atkins, L., & De Lusignan, S. (2016). Applying the COM-B behaviour model and behaviour change wheel to develop an intervention to improve hearing-aid use in adult auditory rehabilitation. International Journal of Audiology, 55(sup3), S90-S98. 


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