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Behavior change and behavior design models

Tactics that change behavior

Random Screening
Random Screening

Random screening refers to unannounced checks of whether someone has been compliant with a given behavior.

These are frequently used via biomarkers, e.g. testing if someone has been taking recreational drugs by delivering a urine test.

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.

Micro-Incentives
Micro-Incentives

Micro-incentives refers to small rewards, typically frequent and cash-based, given out on a per-behavior basis.

A prominent example is Wellth, a program for people with chronic illness delivered via app. Some participants are given around $2 each time they take a medication or measure their blood pressure and submit a photo.

In related studies, e.g. Petry et al. (2015), participants' compliance with these behaviors was significantly higher than those who did not receive the incentives, and the behaviors persisted several months after incentives were removed.

Micro-incentives can be layered with other reward approaches such as lotteries and non-financial incentives.

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.

Social Support
Social Support

Social support refers to the perception or reality that other people will provide assistance in a given context. It is a key component of several behavior models and plays an important role in mediating behavior change.

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.

Social Support
Social Support

Social support refers to the perception or reality that other people will provide assistance in a given context. It is a key component of several behavior models and plays an important role in mediating behavior change.

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.

Products that change behavior

Research on behavior change