Report on Workshop: Novel methods of Human Behaviour Change


Dr Grace Carroll1 and Dr Mary Baxter2

1 Animal Behaviour Centre, School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast, David Keir Building, 18-30 Malone Road, Belfast BT95BN.  2 Institute for Global Food Security, Northern Ireland Technology Centre, Queens University Belfast, Malone Road, Belfast BT9 5HN, UK. 


The workshop was run as a collaboration between the School of Psychology Animal Behaviour Centre and the Institute of Global Food Security at Queens University Belfast. Sessions were chaired and facilitated by Dr Mary Baxter.

Day 1 morning session
This two-day workshop was held on Friday the 12th of February and Friday the 12th of March. The workshop was attended by approximately 40 attendees from Universities, Research Institutes, Charities and Government bodies. There was a good mixture of those new to human behaviour change and those actively conducting or intending to conduct human behaviour change research. The workshop began with a plenary talk from Dr Olga Perski, a Health Psychologist and Research Associate at the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change. We then had a talk from Dr Lynette McLeod, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of New England. Lynette’s research focuses on the application of human behaviour change approaches to improve current extension and adoption practices across agriculture and domestic animal management. This was followed by a talk by Dr Alison Burrell. Alison is a chartered, HCPC registered Health Psychologist and is currently a post-doctoral researcher for Teagasc in Galway, where she is researching working farmers’ attitudes and behaviours around antimicrobial use on the island of Ireland. The talks were well-received and attendees had the opportunity to ask questions after each speaker had presented.

Day 1 afternoon session
We started the afternoon with talks from Health Psychologists Dr Lisa Graham-Wisener and Dr Emma Berry, health psychologists based in the Queen’s University Belfast School of Psychology. Lisa and Emma introduced the first of three frameworks that were covered over the course of the workshop, the Behaviour Change Wheel. Examples were given of ways in which the Behaviour Change Wheel has been implemented in a health psychology context to change human behaviour. Workshop attendees were then split into three groups (Farm animal, Companion Animal and Mixed Species) to consider current barriers to changing human behaviour to improve animal welfare. This was framed using the COM-B aspect of the Behaviour Change Wheel. i.e. what needs to change in terms of Capability, Opportunity and Motivation for us to see desirable behaviour in key animal welfare stakeholders? Dr Grace Carroll then introduced the Theoretical Domains Framework and Behaviour Change Techniques Taxonomy, the final two frameworks to be used in intervention design.

Homework between sessions
Workshop attendees were given a worksheet to complete between sessions. Three tutorial videos were made available to attendees to guide them through each stage of intervention design from defining the behaviour that needs to change to specifying the content of the intervention. These worksheets were submitted one week prior to the second workshop session and were evaluated by Grace Carroll (animal welfare perspective) and Health Psychologists Dr Lisa Graham-Wisener, Dr Emma Berry and Dr Jenny Groarke.

Day 2 morning session
Day 2 began with a talk from Carmen Glanville, a PhD candidate at the Animal Welfare Science Centre at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Carmen conducted a review of human behaviour change research in animal welfare science and highlighted a number of potential pitfalls and points to consider during intervention design. We then had a talk from Dr Jenni McDonald, a Feline Epidemiologist at Cats Protection. Jenni discussed her research on human behaviour change interventions to improve cat welfare. Grace then summarised the worksheets including key barriers identified across those working with farm animals, companion animals and other species. Grace covered the eight common pitfalls that were identified at group level from the worksheets; 1). Target behaviour is too vague/broad/ambiguous, 2). Some lack of understanding of control groups and experimental groups, 3). The control group is not a true control, 4). Less consideration given to evaluating outcomes compared to behaviour, 5). Over-reliance on information sessions/education/increasing knowledge, 6). Intervention is inadequately described, 7). Target behaviour or outcome was not assessed in intervention, 8). Overly complex interventions. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and make comments throughout.

Day 2 afternoon session
Grace began the afternoon session by discussing the Behaviour Change Technique Taxonomy in more detail and provided further resources that could be used in intervention design. An interactive session: ‘What are the solutions?’ was then held to get attendees thinking of various different strategies that could be considered when designing interventions. The workshop was concluded with a 1-hour Q&A panel which Grace, Lisa and Emma sat on. This gave the attendees a chance to ask questions and clarify anything that was not understood.
Consent was obtained from the majority of participants to use their insights from the breakout and interactive sessions in writing up a stakeholder involvement paper on the workshop. This is currently being written. Potential collaborations were discussed, and the workshop Teams page remains available for attendees that would like to access resources or chat within the Team post-workshop. Video footage of the presentations given at this workshop are now available on the Members only section of the website.
We would like to thank Alaina Macri, a PhD student within the Animal Behaviour Centre, for helping out behind the scenes.