Sportopedia Glossary

Behavior Change

Behavior Change

A taxonomy of Behavior Change Techniques (BCT) is a classification system of methods to change behavior, organized in a hierarchical structure. Interventions to change behaviors are typically complex and involve multiple and interacting components.

The smallest component that on its own has the potential to change behavior and that is described with sufficient specificity to be replicable is termed a BCT (Michie et al., 2013). It is the potentially ‘active ingredient’ of a behavior change intervention. Examples of BCTs are ‘goal setting (behavior),’ ‘problem solving,’ and ‘demonstration of the behavior,’ each has its own definition (see example below).

A detailed taxonomic classification of BCTs using a controlled and shared language allows precision of reporting, synthesis, and replication. It is of use to both research and practice, as interventions can be described in clearer and more consistent ways and more rigorously tested and compared in research studies. In turn, professionals can be trained in the consistent delivery of standardized BCTs.

An extensive, cross-domain, integrated taxonomy of non-overlapping and non-redundant BCTs has been developed using a rigorous method. The result is a clearly labeled and precisely defined list of BCTs that can be used with confidence to describe interventions— the BCT Taxonomy v1 (see Michie et al. 2013, 2015). These BCTs are hierarchically organized into 16 groupings, for improved ease of use (e.g., goals and planning, feedback and monitoring, social support, self-belief).

Each grouping contains between three and eleven techniques. The BCT Taxonomy v1 was developed using an iterative procedure consisting of literature review and expert consensus procedures, with more than 400 international experts from 11 countries participating. The taxonomy built on earlier versions (e.g., physical activity and eating; see Michie et al., 2015) of the method. A series of studies has demonstrated its benefit in terms of reliability for identifying BCTs, clarity for reporting interventions, and the impact of training to use the taxonomy (c.f. Michie et al., 2015). BCTTv1 is
the most comprehensive classification of BCTs and, by the end of 2016, had been cited more than 700 times.

In the context of promoting physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviors, BCTTv1 has been used in several systematic reviews and meta-analyses with the aim of identifying the most effective BCTs and informing the development of interventions (see for a database of all published interventions and systematic reviews that use the BCTTv1 to describe their content). BCTTv1 is available at a website ( and smartphone application, providing interactive training and support for users.

Example of a BCT entry in the BCTTv1 Label: Goal setting (behavior) Definition: Set or agree on a goal defined in terms of the behavior to be achieved. Note: only code goal setting if there is sufficient evidence that goal set as part of intervention; if goal unspecified or a behavioral outcome, code 1.3, Goal setting (outcome); if the goal defines a specific context, frequency, duration, or intensity for the behavior, also code 1.4, Action planning. Example: Agree on a daily walking goal (e.g., 3 miles) with the person and reach agreement about the goal.


Michie, S., Richardson, M., Johnston, M., Abraham, C., Francis, J., Hardeman, W., . . . Wood, C. (2013). The behavior change technique taxonomy (v1) of 93 hierarchically clustered techniques: building an international consensus for the reporting of behavior change interventions. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 46(1), 81 95. Available from

Michie, S., Wood, C., Johnston, M., Abraham, C., Francis, J., & Hardeman, W. (2015). Behaviour change techniques: The development and evaluation of a taxonomic method for reporting and describing behaviour change interventions. Health Technology Assessment, 19(99). Available from

***Contributed by Marta M. Marques & Susan Michie for Hackfort, D., Schinke, R. J., & Strauss, B. (Eds.). (2019). Dictionary of sport psychology: sport, exercise, and performing arts. Academic Press.