Behavior Change - September 2020

The Behavior Model

The Behavior Model is a simple and accurate way of explaining how all behaviors work. It includes the motivation, ability, and prompt to do a behavior, the prompt being what reminds you to do the behavior (also called or a cue or a call to action). When they come together at the same moment, you do the behavior. If any of those components are missing, we don’t do the behavior. If unprompted, we don’t do the behavior. If we lack motivation, we don’t do the behavior. If it’s impossible to do, we don’t do the behavior. This model can be used to understand and design any type of behavior.

A real-life example could be wanting to call someone. Perhaps you’re motivated to call this person and your schedule is less busy than usual, so you have the time, the ability, and the motivation. What you might lack, though, is prompting. You might make it to the end of the day and never call that person. It’s not a matter of lacking willpower or motivation; it’s a design issue. Maybe instead, you have a little sticky note on your desk (or even on your phone) that reminds you to call. The simplicity and tininess of it are deceiving, but it doesn’t have to be hard.