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Professor Susan Michie (Professor of Health Psychology & Director of CBC at UCL)

14th April 2021
Episode 20

Susan Michie is Professor of Health Psychology and Director of UCL's Health Psychology Research Group. She is also a chartered clinical & health psychologist and elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, the European Health Psychology Society (EHPS) and the British Psychological Society (BPS).

Early Life & Career

Susan starts the episode by talking about the huge shoes she felt she had to fill from a young age, with a father who was instrumental in setting up modern AI and computer science in the UK. During this time, the Lighthill report was produced saying that there was no future in computers - check out a YouTube video on the report's debate! Susan’s mother was also the first woman foreign secretary of the Royal Society, so her upbringing had a large emphasis on science.

Susan details her journey through University, early career, and the many ways that she rebelled against the system, staging events at Oxford University and beyond to challenge outdated policies and thinking. As a clinical psychologist, she worked in social services family centres with families and children who were at risk. She also worked at the Royal Free Hospital, London where she joined the Psychology Unit as a Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Health Psychology, working with Professor Marie Johnston.

Eventually, Susan branched into other areas, such as public and professional attitudes towards genetic testing and informed choice and decision making about prenatal screening. She explains that her career journey has had many branches as she does not stay within the academic four-walls, even knocking on doors to talk with people.

CBC & COM-B

Susan talks about her work in UCL's Centre for Behaviour Change (CBC) which brings together disciplines and translates behavioural science for practical use. The CBC provide CBC training, a Summer school, conferences & events, and an MSc in behaviour change.

She shares how the COM-B model of behaviour was developed by working in the Department of Health, where she saw how none of the many behavioural frameworks was 100% fit for purpose. Systematic reviews revealed that a simple model was needed to understand behaviour, and inspiration was taken from the American Judicial System – does someone have the Capability, the Opportunity and the Motivation to commit a crime.

As her work on the application of behavioural theories continues, Susan shares how she is looking to continue linking work across disciplines and seek methods for better analysis of the huge amounts of data being produced about behaviour change.

Susan leaves us with advice for those starting out or entering field: try and do what you are really interested in, are curious about and enjoy doing when you can. Building networks is hugely important so don't be shy to start conversations or write to people. 9 times out of 10 it might go nowhere, but 1 in 10, it can take you to interesting places.

Listen to this RWBS episode