A number of psychosocial theories has been developed to predict, explain, and change health behaviors. These theories can be divided into two main groups which are commonly referred to as social cognition models and stage models, respectively. The term `social cognition models' refers to a group of similar theories each of which specifies a small number of cognitive and affective factors (`beliefs and attitudes') as the proximal determinants of behavior. The five models that have been used most widely by health behavior researchers in recent years are: the health belief model, protection motivation theory, self-efficacy theory, the theory of reasoned action, and the theory of planned behavior. These models are outlined in turn, their similarities and differences are noted, and common criticisms are discussed. Stage models use similar concepts but organize them in a different way. According to this approach, behavior change involves movement through a sequence of discrete, qualitatively distinct, stages. The dominant stage model of health behavior, the transtheoretical model, is described, and some problems with the model and the research based on it are mentioned.
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