Behavioural science is concerned with predicting, explaining and changing behaviour. Taking a personal perspective, this article aims to show how behavioural science can contribute to primary care research, specifically in relation to the development and evaluation of interventions to change behaviour. After discussing the definition and measurement of behaviour, the principle of compatibility and theories of behaviour change, the article outlines two examples of behaviour change trials (one on medication adherence and the other on physical activity), which were part of a research programme on prevention of chronic disease and its consequences. The examples demonstrate how, in a multidisciplinary context, behavioural science can contribute to primary care research in several important ways, including posing relevant research questions, defining the target behaviour, understanding the psychological determinants of behaviour, developing behaviour change interventions and selection or development of measures. The article concludes with a number of recommendations: (i) whether the aim is prediction, explanation or change, defining the target behaviour is a crucial first step; (ii) interventions should be explicitly based on theories that specify the factors that need to be changed in order to produce the desired change in behaviour; (iii) intervention developers need to be aware of the differences between different theories and select a theory only after careful consideration of the alternatives assessed against relevant criteria; and (iv) developers need to be aware that interventions can never be entirely theory based.