The Fogg Behaviour Model
Behaviour models are a way to understand the factors that drive particular behaviours. The best known comes from economics and is the theory of rational man (or homo economicus). Rational man theory simply says that people decide how to behave by weighing up the costs and benefits of each choice, and choose the action that maximises their expected benefits.
When put like that, it almost sounds sensible, but if you scratch the surface, you realise that this makes some pretty bizarre assumptions. Namely that people behave in a solely self-interested way, cognitively deliberate each decision they take, and don’t at all care about the fall-out consequences of their actions.
It’s dismal indeed to think that this model has been the predominant informer of many policy decisions. The resultant thinking is generally to (i) increase consumers’ access to information, and (ii) to make sure that the social costs of people’s behaviour is internalised (which aren’t bad things in themselves of course, but are relatively impotent with most people if used to try and encourage behaviour change).
Understanding of behaviour within the policy world is beginning to get more sophisticated, as the behavioural economics discourse transposes psychology into a format understandable by politicians. Habits, non-self-interested (social, moral, altruistic) behaviour, social norms, and emotions are all being added into the mix, and we end up with models like Theory of Reasoned Action or Theory of Planned Behaviour (there are lots more if you’re keen).
I found the recent report by the UK’s Government Social Research helpful in its distinction between models of behaviour (which help you understand the factors underlying behaviours) and theories of change, which give insight into how behaviours change and how that change can be encouraged. Although the two ideas overlap, going by this definition, I guess the Fogg Behaviour Model is closer to a theory of change.
Fogg’s model is nice and simple to understand, and shows that three things; motivation, ability and a trigger are required to change a particular behaviour. There are three types of motivator, each with two sides (pleasure-pain, hope-fear, and social rejection-social acceptance). Ability, within the Fogg model, means making the particular behaviour easier to do or simpler. There are also three types of triggers named (facilitator, spark, and signal, but as the model is in its early stages the difference between these three isn’t quite clear to me yet).
The Fogg model says that if you get the motivators right, and if the behaviour is made easier for people to do, and if you trigger it – then the behaviour is more likely to occur. The model is intended to bring clarity for designers to the world of behaviour models, and I think its simplicity definitely scores highly from that point of view.
One thing that struck me when reading the background material of the GSR report’s (mentioned above) section on theories of behaviour change is this:
Both Lewin’s Change Theory and systems thinking approaches focus on resistance to change, and suggest that lasting change requires a process of engagement, in which audience groups are included as partners in the process [pdf link]
Engagement seems key, and as well as apparently being more effective, makes the idea of helping us to change our behaviour less mechanical (which is essentially what rational man theory does too), and more to do with learning. Could this fit into the Fogg Behaviour Model?
It’s (always) a good time to quote George Box: “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful”.