Learn how to change behavior.

The world's largest collection of resources and data on behavioral science.

Behavior change and behavior design models

Tactics that change behavior

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT is a therapeutic approach originalled developed by Steven Hayes. It borrows from previous concepts like cognitive behavioral therapy and Morita therapy.

The principles of ACT are fairly systematic and lend themselves well to program design, finding empirical support in adaptations like 2morrow's smoking cessation and pain management interventions.

Feedback
Feedback

Feedback entails providing qualitative or quantitative information about a behavior's performance or consequences.

Performative information might include data on how a person's current diet tracks with nutrition recommendations or how their home power consumption compares with nearby households.

Feedback on outcomes may include information about relative cancer risk based on current lifestyle factors or calculated net worth in 20 years based on the person's current savings rate and investment returns.

Behavior Substitution
Behavior Substitution

Behavior substitution refers to attempting to eliminate a problematic behavior by replacing it with another one.

Often, the substituted behaviors are intended to have similar sensory qualities (e.g. drink flavored sparkling water instead of soda). The goal is typically to disassociate the original behavior from its cue, enabling the more positive behavior to be triggered automatically.

Financial Incentives
Financial Incentives

Financial incentives are monetary rewards given for performing a certain behavior. These come in many different varieties; for example, they may be guaranteed vs lottery-based, or group-oriented vs individually-assigned.

Checklists
Checklists

Checklists are an age-old tactic for remembering to do certain tasks. Checklists are sometimes used to measure behaviors that should take place with a certain frequency, e.g. every day or X times per week, and other times, to ensure certain steps are followed every time a person does a complex behavior.

For behavior designers, the challenges of checklists often entail choosing the right behaviors, breaking them down to the correct level of granularity for a given population, and serving them up in the proper context or sometimes with personalization. They are likely underutilized and consistently improve the performance of even experts, like pilots and surgeons.

Skill Coaching
Skill Coaching

Skill coaching simply refers to guiding a person to acquire a new behavior or set of behaviors, often by scaling the information and challenge level with their growing ability.

Examples of this might include teaching someone to cook healthy foods or training them in various self-regulation techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy. This coaching may be done by an individual or automated through digital experiences.

Framing Effects
Framing Effects

A framing effect refers to changes in people's choices within a given set of options based on how the options are presented. This are typically associated with behavioral economics, as it violates utility theory's premise that people will choose according to a rational assessment of the outcome.

The most common example of this is posing a question as a loss or a gain. In several instances, people have been found to choose differently based on whether a proposition is losing lives vs saving them, an X% of infection vs. a Y% chance of immunity, etc despite the options being mathetmatically identical between the two framings.

Social Norms
Social Norms

Social norms are shared expectations on how people within a certain group will or should behave. They are often considered as unwritten rules that govern behavior and tend to be very influential.

Influencing behavior using social norms can take a variety of forms. For example, some studies aim to correct misunderstandings around descriptive norms (what people in a group actually do). One trial involving the UK Behavioural Insights Team increased tax compliance by emphasizing that the vast majority of people pay their taxes on time, which influenced non-compliers to become more like the majority. People generally do not like to deviate from the norm, which may explain the success of this tactic.

Other approaches involve attempting to change social norms or create new social norms, which is substantially harder. One prominent example was the promotion of the ""designated driver"" (DDs) in the US during a period of high automobile fatalities. Public health officials influenced Hollywood producers to include the designated driver in film and television scenes, which caused viewers to: 1) likely believe the use of DDs was much more common than it actually was, and 2) likely consider using a DD was what they ""should"" do (i.e. the injunctive norm). Following the public health campaign, awareness and compliance with the DD protocol rose substantially, and auto fatalities dropped precipitously.

Products that change behavior

Research on behavior change