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Behavior change and behavior design models

Tactics that change behavior

Gamification
Gamification

Gamification refers to leveraging mechanics and other experiential elements typically associated with games in non-game contexts.

These can be fairly subtle (e.g. a progress bar for filing out a health risk questionnaire), moderate (e.g. achievements given for reaching personal finance goals, contests for steps walked as a team in a workplace wellness competition), or extreme (e.g. an augmented reality experience to treat chronic pain). At the extreme end, the distinction between a gamified experience and an actual game may be considered almost academic.

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.

Rules of Thumb
Rules of Thumb

Rules of thumb refer to simplifation heuristics used in dealing with uncertainty, situations where tracking behaviors can be onerous, or areas where one-size-fits-all approaches may not be successful. They can be a useful tool to reduce the cognitive load of complying with a new behavior.

For example, a person may find it easier to "eat out at restaurants only 4 times per month" rather than "limit monthly restaurant spending to $200." Similarly, avoiding eating certain types of foods, e.g. fried foods or high-calorie drinks, may be easier to recall and comply with than hitting a daily calorie goal.

Tracking behavior
Tracking behavior

Self-monitoring or tracking simply refers to a person measuring their behavior over time.

Often, merely tracking a behavior can influence the likelihood or frequency with which a person performs the behavior or related ones. For example, many pedometer studies increase walking activity merely by improving awareness, and many interventions that merely consist of rewarding someone for weighing themselves result in weight loss.

That said, people often find tracking behaviors tedious and lose interest after a short period, so behavior designers should seek to reduce the burden of self-monitoring by collecting information automatically or doing so in a low-cost way.

AI or Chatbot
AI or Chatbot

Using a chatbot or simulated conversational interaction.

Smart Defaults
Smart Defaults

Defaults refer to what happens if a person makes no choice or goes with a pre-selected choice. The influence of defaults is a foundational component of behavioral economics.

Perhaps the most famous example of defaults is the difference between opt-in and opt-out organ donation programs. While not universal, several studies have found that the rate of organ donation consent in a population seems to be influenced by the default (i.e., what happens if a person does not check a box or change the pre-selected preference on a form).

Smart defaults do not only refer to one-off events, however. In the well-known Save More Tomorrow program, participants were not only included in a savings program by default, but the amount they saved was also changed over time automatically (again by default). Similarly, other behavior change programs have default settings that include at-home medication or food delivery, rules-based reminders on different platforms, etc.

Environmental Restructuring
Environmental Restructuring

Environmental restructuring refers to modifying the physical environment around someone in order to influence their behavior.

On the less intensive end, this could be as simple as having someone leave a pill bottle in a more obvious location or switch to using a pillbox with compartments for each day. More complex examples include carpooling potential voters to election sites to improve turnout, redesigning a workplace cafeteria layout to bias toward healthier foods, or setting up booths for influenze vaccination in offices or shopping malls.

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.

Products that change behavior

Research on behavior change