Forget New Year’s resolutions.
Front-loading your year with a set of promises to improve is not a winning strategy. And it’s not because people aren’t capable of change, either. It’s that the psychology of the New Year’s resolution is not compatible with the way people make difficult transitions:
- It happens immediately following the holidays, when people are re-entering a regular work routine, may have just had emotionally charged family gatherings, and likely gained a few pounds from uncharacteristic eating and drinking.
- It happens during a time of year that for many of us is cold and dark.
- The focus on making the new year a good one may lead people to craft overly lofty or unwieldy resolutions that are difficult to achieve.
From research on habit formation, motivational design, and willpower, we can extract a few characteristics of resolutions that work. They are: Continue reading Remake Your Resolution Strategy
The office where I work has a tradition of assigning everyone a new desk each quarter. At first, I was skeptical about this–it has some obvious drawbacks, like the time lost to physically moving all of your stuff four times a year. But one major advantage I’ve found is that it limits my exposure to unhealthy food triggers, at least part of the year.
My first several months here, I sat next to the kitchen. This means that saying no to the catered lunch or platter of brownies wasn’t a one time deal, but something I had to do repeatedly throughout the course of the day. It won’t surprise anyone to learn that my willpower would eventually crumble, usually around 2 or 3 pm after several hours of meetings and mental exertion, and I’d be sitting there with the remains of dessert in my lap feeling bad about the poor choice I’d just made. Continue reading Building Healthy Habits: Hide Your Triggers!
So much of what sells a consumer product is intangible. Quality matters: does the product do what it’s supposed to do? But so do things like the emotions the product evokes in the user (does it smell like a favorite memory?), the associations a person has with the product (this is what my mother used), and whether or not the product is part of the person’s habits.
Habits are automatic behavior patterns that can occur without conscious decision-making on the part of the actor. Habits consist of three parts: A cue, a routine, and a reward (Duhigg, 2012). Once someone has experienced this cycle, the habit is created as the person begins to crave the reward (Berrdige & Kingelbach, 2008). Although people may engage in a behavior for the first time for a specific reason such as a financial incentive, they will continue the behavior long term if the routine reliably elicits a valued reward (Finlay, Trafimow, & Villarreal, 2002). So where do consumer products come in? Continue reading How the Psychology of Habits Can Influence Consumer Product Marketing
A cardinal rule of designing for behavior change is that you must actually specify and understand what you are asking your user to do before you can create an effective framework to influence the behavior. BJ Fogg’s Behavior Grid is a useful tool for defining the behaviors you want your users to do, and designing an intervention accordingly.
One of the challenges I’ve found in using this taxonomy to design behavior change interventions is that it’s very difficult to coach people into span or path behaviors. To assign someone a span, like “eat a low calorie diet for a few weeks until you see a weight loss,” or a path, like “stop smoking from now on,” actually consists of many smaller steps that are subsumed in the larger span/path goal. For an end user, the span or path still leaves a question mark as to what the component behaviors should be and how to cope with obstacles that arise. Continue reading From Dots to Spans: Stringing Together Simple Actions to Create Habits