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Behavior change and behavior design models

Tactics that change behavior

Education or Information
Education or Information

Education refers to empowering a person with more knowledge or training than they had previously. While providing information alone is often a suboptimal way to drive meaningful behavior change or long-term interventions, the right message at the right time can be a powerful part of a behavior change strategy.

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.

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.

Motivational Interviewing
Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a therapeutic approach that aims to influence behavior by eliciting goals, motivation, insights, and specific behavioral plans through structured dialog. It's largely associated with William Miller and Stephen Rollnick, and bears some relation to the Socratic method (as does the original cognitive therapy approach). While originally developed as part of a treatment for substance abuse, the method has been generalized and found empirical support in assisting behavior change in diet, exercise, and other areas.

Lotteries
Lotteries

Lotteries are any form of assigning an award where there is an element of randomness or chance.

One example is a prize-linked savings account (PLSAs). One of the earliest of these was the Million a Month Account (MAMA) in South Africa, where First National Bank offered account-holders with qualifying deposits a chance to win up to one million rand each month (along with other smaller prizes given out at random).

Lotteries may be used with non-financial rewards as well, e.g. offering tickets to a sold-out play or sporting event for employees reaching certain performance benchmarks.

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.

Coaching or Counselling
Coaching or Counselling

Coaching or counselling here refers to having a trained person provide guidance to someone attempting a behavior. Many mental health and lifestyle programs utilize coaching in various forms, including phone calls, video chat, text messaging, or in-person sessions. Some programs have replaced some or all of these traditionally human-delivered touchpoints with AI or rules-based interactions.

Motivational Interviewing
Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing (MI) is a therapeutic approach that aims to influence behavior by eliciting goals, motivation, insights, and specific behavioral plans through structured dialog. It's largely associated with William Miller and Stephen Rollnick, and bears some relation to the Socratic method (as does the original cognitive therapy approach). While originally developed as part of a treatment for substance abuse, the method has been generalized and found empirical support in assisting behavior change in diet, exercise, and other areas.

Products that change behavior

Research on behavior change