Challenges and solutions for N-of-1 design studies in health psychology

Dominika Kwasnicka*, Jennifer Inauen, Wim Nieuwenboom, Johanna Nurmi, A. Schneider, Camille E. Short, Tessa Dekkers, A. Jess Williams, Walter Bierbauer, Ari Haukkala, Federica Picariello, Felix Naughton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


Theories of behaviour change and health behaviour change interventions are most often evaluated in between-person designs. However, behaviour change theories apply to individuals not groups and behavioural interventions ultimately aim to achieve within-person rather than between-group change. Within-person methodology, such as N-of-1 (also known as single case design), can circumvent this issue, though has multiple design-specific challenges. This paper provides a conceptual review of the challenges and potential solutions for undertaking N-of-1 studies in health psychology. Key challenges identified include participant adherence to within-person protocols, carry-over and slow onset effects, suitability of behaviour change techniques for evaluation in N-of-1 experimental studies, optimal allocation sequencing and blinding, calculating power/sample size, and choosing the most suitable analysis approach. Key solutions include involving users in study design, employing recent technologies for unobtrusive data collection and problem solving by design. Within-person designs share common methodological requirements with conventional between-person designs but require specific methodological considerations. N-of-1 evaluation designs are appropriate for many though not all types of interventions. A greater understanding of patterns of behaviours and factors influencing behaviour change at the within-person level is required to progress health psychology into a precision science. Video abstract: Supplementary Material 1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-178
Number of pages16
JournalHealth Psychology Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Accepted author manuscript


  • idiographic design
  • N-of-1
  • single case study
  • within-person design

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