Changing behaviour without talking: affordances and the importance of context

  • Hill, K. (Speaker)
  • David R Foxcroft (Speaker)
  • Michael Pilling (Speaker)

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsOral presentationResearch


Alcohol misuse is a public health concern. Behaviour work which focuses on preventing and regulating maladaptive alcohol consumption suggests drinkers act rationally in choosing to consume alcohol. Many social cognition approaches view cognitive attributes as the primary mediator of behaviour. For example, much prevention work focuses on changing attitudes towards other drinkers or intentions to consume alcohol. These approaches are particularly limited when explaining maladaptive behaviours, including why individuals continue to consume alcohol despite being aware of health risks. Instead of focusing on psychological complexity, prevention researchers should consider the functional significance of the contexts where alcohol is consumed. It is possible that environmental cues and the affordability of certain contexts may determine behaviour on a non-conscious, automatic level. Taking a socioecological approach, behaviour is not viewed as something which is planned and rational, but as something which emerges from the direct and unmediated relationship between drinkers and their drinking environments. This then changes the focus of prevention from cognitive mediators or determinants of behaviour to the range of opportunities for action that these contexts afford. This presentation will consider the challenges in studying the complex social contexts in which alcohol is consumed, including related conventions and social norms which may also mediate behaviour. An overview of alcohol-related affordances and implications will be provided using examples from previous research, using methods such as non-participant observation, photo-elicitation and Q-Methodology. It will be argued that taking a function-based approach is challenging, but could be particularly valuable in explaining and preventing problematic consumption.
Period23 Oct 2015
Event titleSixth European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR) Annual Conference and Member's Meeting
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational