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Behavior change and behavior design models

Tactics that change behavior

Reminders, Cues, or Prompts
Reminders, Cues, or Prompts

Reminders, cues, and prompts are simply methods to cause someone to perform a behavior by calling their attention to it with a timely message. People have limited attention and memory, so these types of influences can be very effective when done skillfully.

The cue need not consist of written or spoken language; for example, it could be a certain melody, symbol, or pattern of lights on a connected home device. It might also be a bracelet or pattern of vibrations from a wearable device. Provided the cue or prompt is associated with the behavior, almost any sensory stimuli that is reliably perceived and interpreted may be used. That said, verbal reminders can be effective since they may be personalized with additional semantic information related to the person's context or leverage other effects (e.g. identity priming or framing effects).

Goal Setting
Goal Setting

Goal setting simply refers to a person choosing a specific result to aim at achieving. This might include an outcome (e.g. a goal weight) or a behavior (e.g. exercise 90 minutes 3 times a week).

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.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapuetic approach to improving mental and behavioral health. The core philosophy is that behavior can be modified by noticing and correcting patterns in thought that influence the behavior. Modern CBT is typically associated with Albert Ellis and Alan Beck.

The structured and rules-based nature of CBT have made it a popular candidate for digital interventions and application by lightly-trained or even untrained practitioners.

Group Incentives
Group Incentives

Group incentives refer to structure where an individual's likelihood or size of reward is influenced by others. The intention is to leverage positive peer pressure by causing compliant participants to influence less compliant participants to improve their behavior.

For example, sales teams may be offered a bonus based on an office's collective revenue generation or provided all individuals meet a baseline level of performance. Similarly a multi-site franchise may offer an incentive for whichever location improves their performance the most over the prior month.

Social Benchmarking
Social Benchmarking

Social benchmarking refers to comparing a person's behavior, trends, or status to others. Often, merely providing data on others can change behavior by leveraging social norms.

For example, letters comparing homeowners' use of electricity with peers were found to significantly reduce the amount of energy used by high-consumption households compared to non-comparison messages.

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.

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.

Products that change behavior

Research on behavior change