Stimulus Organism Response (SOR) Theory in Health Behavior Change

The problem of forming and changing behavior is crucial in health behavior. Because the goal of health promotion or health education as a supplement to other health programs is behavior change.

One of the theories of health behavior change is the Stimulus Organism Response theory.

Behavior change is a person’s response or reaction to a stimulus (external stimulus). Even if the person / community desires change, it cannot be implemented without the assistance and encouragement of outsiders.

Stimulus Organism Response can be used as a strategy to conduct counseling or public awareness about a subject, such as the government’s awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle for people who live on river banks. Theory is based on the assumption that the quality of the stimulus that communicates with the organism determines the cause of a change in behavior.

Also read: ABC Theory: One of Theories of Health Behavior Change

These are several important things about Stimulus Organism Response theory in health behavior change:

1. Individual Learning Process is required

The process of changing attitudes, according to the S-O-R theory, is similar to the process of learning. Individuals go through the following learning process:

  • The communicant (organism) can accept or reject the message (stimulus) delivered by the communicator. If the communicant rejects the given stimulus, this indicates that the stimulus is less effective in influencing individual attention; thus, the learning process comes to an end here.
  • However, if the stimulus is received, it indicates that the communicant is paying attention (organism). The communicant understands the stimulus provided by this communicator, indicating that the stimulus is being used effectively and that the learning process is continuing.
  • Following that, the communicant (organism) processes the stimulus it receives so that there is a willingness to act in response to the stimulus, or to take a stand.
  • When combined with facility support and environmental encouragement, the communicant’s (individual’s) attitude eventually becomes an action, namely a change in behavior.

2. Factors Influencing the Success of SOR Theory

The success or failure of applying the S-O-R theory in a health behavior change process is influenced by various factors. Here are some of the factors that will have a significant impact on the theory’s success:

  • Communicator. The communicator is the messenger, who is related to the stimulus giver in this case. The communicator must be highly credible in the eyes of the communicant (stimulus recipient). Furthermore, the communicator must have adequate communication skills and attractiveness in order to attract the communicant’s attention.
  • Media. Media in communication is a tool or means by which communicators convey messages to communicants. The media used should be chosen with care so that the communicant can easily receive the message or stimulus provided by the communicator. The communicator’s media must be compatible with the communicant’s characteristics in order to facilitate the communicant’s comprehension.
  • Characteristics of the Communicant (Organism). Acceptance or rejection of a stimulus provided by the communicator to the communicant is largely determined by the communicant’s characteristics.

Also read: Diffusion of Innovation Theory in Health Promotion

3. Obstacle in SOR Theory

  • Mechanical disturbances in the form of physical disturbances, which are caused by the presence of sound or other noise around the place where the stimulus is given. For example the sound of cars passing by, the sound of music from outside, etc.
  • Semantic disturbances in the form of disturbances are caused by differences in meaning understood by the source and recipient. This disorder is usually related to language limitations or differences, for example differences in understanding of complex terms.
  • Interest, the communicant will choose which messages/stimuli to receive based on their interests. Material on serving balanced nutritional meals for families, for example, will be more appealing to housewives than material on calculating the number of calories required for a sports activity.
  • Motivation will persuade someone to do something based on their desires, needs, and deficiencies. Motivational differences can stymie the successful application of S-O-R theory. When the motivation contained in the communicator’s stimulus matches the motivation of the communicant, the stimulus is received. If it is not appropriate, the communicant will disregard it. The higher the success rate of applying the S-O-R theory, the more appropriate the stimulus given to the communicant’s motivation.
  • Prejudice is associated with the communicant’s suspicion. Prejudice can be a major impediment to the success of S-O-R theory because it causes the communicant to act against the communicator even before the communicator says anything. Prejudice can be based on ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, or membership in specific groups.
  • Communication evasion is associated with the symptom of ridiculing or avoiding the communicator’s message (stimulus) in order to discredit the message.

4. SOR Theory Application

For example, cases in the health sector are related to the behavior of people living on river banks who like to throw garbage into the river. This behavior can contaminate river water.

Elements of SOR Theory:

  • Stimulus (S): an idea to make people living near the river aware that they should not throw garbage into the river.
  • Organisms (O): people who live by the river
  • Response (R): in the form of the expected effect, i.e., people change their polluting habits.

Also read: WHO Models: Behavioral Changes Theory

Process Stages of SOR:

  1. The first stage, the communicator looks for ways to provide the right stimulus to get the attention of the communicant
  2. After gaining the communicant’s attention, the communicator attempts to persuade the communicant that throwing garbage into the river is not a good idea.
  3. Furthermore, the communicant processes the ideas he receives from the communicator before deciding on an attitude.
  4. In the final stage, the community began to change its behavior, no longer throwing garbage into the river and becoming more environmentally conscious.

5. Strengths and weaknesses of SOR Theory

Strengths / Advantages

  • Because the S-O-R theory emphasizes conducting in-depth studies of the communicant so that the persuasion process can be carried out easily, it is effective enough to persuade a person or group of people.
  • S-O-R theory has a high chance of success, especially when applied in an interpersonal context with more intense communication and discussion.
  • Based on the stimuli and data on the communicant’s characteristics, the S-O-R theory can be used to predict the responses that arise.

Also read: HL Bloom Theory in Public Health Sciences

Weaknesses / Disadvantages

  • This theory does not guarantee that the stimuli provided will successfully persuade an individual or group of individuals to change their attitude. Because the communicator’s ideas may be rejected by the communicant.
  • The S-O-R theory’s success is heavily reliant on the processes that take place between communicators and communicants. If the communicant does not pay attention to the communicator, the communicant will not understand the communicator’s ideas; as a result, there will be no understanding, and the idea will be rejected.

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