Lewin’s Force Field Analysis 

What is it?

According to the force field analysis model, our decision to engage in a behaviour is dictated by two kinds of forces – driving forces (things that motivate us towards wanting to do something) and restraining forces (perceived barriers that prevent us from wanting to do something).  Lewin's theory, broadly interpreted, suggests that a more effective way to change behaviour is to diminish those things that are working against a particular behaviour (restraining forces), rather than focussing on the positives (driving forces).

The FFA technique is theoretically informed by field theory and systems theory. Field theory, developed by psychologist Kurt Lewin, explains how any situation is the result of all the different interacting and interdependent elements/actors that are concerned. The theory helps the change agents go beyond what is obvious to the eyes and get a macro-level perspective in order to understand and predict how change can happen, and if it is possible. Additionally, Lewin’s ideation of a field in its totality conceptually overlaps with the systems approach. All the actors concerning and capable of influencing a matter together form a system. Together these theoretical frameworks lay the foundation for FFA.

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How could you apply this theory?

Map out all of the driving and restraining forces to engaging in the desired behaviour and aim to reduce the barriers rather than increase motivators to bring about behaviour change.

Example of theory applied

Force field analysis for Cane Changer -  One restraining force was farmers failing to maintain written records. Written records are essential to accreditation in best management farming practice and key to improving water quality running out to the Reef. However, keeping written records is not necessarily standard practice.

Our analysis showed that those farmers who do start keeping written records tend to modify their farming practices. For instance, farmers who keep records also tend to adopt other practices that benefit the Reef.

Why is this theory important for behaviour change?

This theory is important for behaviour change because it takes a systems-level approach and considers the contextual factors that the behaviour occurs in. It look at all of the factors at play and allows you to choose which ones to target for the best chance at disrupting the equilibrium.

Citations

  • Lewin K. (1951) 'Field Theory in Social Science', Harper and Row, New York.

Related concepts

Field theory

Systems theory

Self-determination theory