Objective: Without standardized definitions of the techniques included in behavior change interventions, it is difficult to faithfully replicate effective interventions and challenging to identify techniques contributing to effectiveness across interventions. This research aimed to develop and test a theory-linked taxonomy of generally applicable behavior change techniques (BCTs).
Design: Twenty-six BCTs were defined. Two psychologists used a 5-page coding manual to independently judge the presence or absence of each technique in published intervention descriptions and in intervention manuals.
Results: Three systematic reviews yielded 195 published descriptions. Across 78 reliability tests (i.e., 26 techniques applied to 3 reviews), the average kappa per technique was 0.79, with 93% of judgments being agreements. Interventions were found to vary widely in the range and type of techniques used, even when targeting the same behavior among similar participants. The average agreement for intervention manuals was 85%, and a comparison of BCTs identified in 13 manuals and 13 published articles describing the same interventions generated a technique correspondence rate of 74%, with most mismatches (73%) arising from identification of a technique in the manual but not in the article.
Conclusions: These findings demonstrate the feasibility of developing standardized definitions of BCTs included in behavioral interventions and highlight problematic variability in the reporting of intervention content.