Studies of farmer decision-making and behaviour have been prominent within social science research into agricultural change. Often, such a focus has been predicated on the idea of understanding why farmers do or do not adopt new practices or technologies, and to identify policy measures to encourage farmers to change their adoption behaviour (Ruttan, 1996). Indeed, this end-of-pipe role, identifying how to overcome barriers to adoption, has been a major reason for the inclusion of social science in inter-disciplinary research on agricultural change. Continuing interest from researchers, policy-makers, and other groups in how to influence farmer behaviour is illustrated by a recent review of the literature on this topic commissioned by the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, a levy organisation that works to ‘inspire farmers, growers, and industry to succeed in a changing world’ (AHDB website), including funding research and knowledge exchange activities. Through this review, the AHDB wanted to learn more about key factors for changing farmer behaviour. The experience of conducting the review prompted us to write this editorial in which we seek to draw attention to the the limits of existing behavioural approaches in the agricultural sciences, and to outline an alternative, more ‘distributed’ approach to understanding farmer decision-making behaviour.