Want to change someone’s behavior? There’s an app for that.
Whether you’re in marketing or management, one of your key jobs will be to influence people and bring about behaviour change (consumers, partners, colleagues – or even at home).
So here’s one of the most useful tools we’ve come across; below you’ll find a full list of the 93 evidence-based behavior change techniques (often called ‘nudges’ or BCTs) used by psychologists in clinical practice that form the BCTTv1 – Behavior Change Techniques Taxonomy, version 1. The free app has been produced by UCL (University College London).
Because these techniques are used in clinical practice, their focus to date has been primarily on promoting – or rather nudging – desirable behaviours linked to wellness and wellbeing.
However, the business opportunity is to take these BCTs and apply them to consumer (and/or colleague) behaviour. In particular, there is a major opportunity to integrate these techniques in advertising, since they offer evidence-based grounding for creative, and important proof-points when pitching.
Of course, there are many influence frameworks out there, but the BCT taxonomy is evidence-based, focused on behavior-change and has been developed and coded over three years by a team of 400 international behavior change experts, active in their field and engaged in investigating, designing, and/or delivering behavior change interventions. It’s also also mercifully free of psycho-babble, just plain English, with a super simple framework based on three levers of behavior change – motivation, opportunity and capability, and sixteen technique categories.
I. GOALS & PLANNING
1. Goal Setting (behavior) – Set or agree on a goal defined in terms of the behavior to be achieved
2. Problem Solving – Analyse , or prompt the person to analyse, factors influencing the behavior and generate or select strategies that include overcoming barriers and/or increasing facilitator
3. Goal Setting (outcome) – Set or agree on a goal defined in terms of a positive outcome of wanted behavior
4. Action Planning – Prompt detailed planning of performance of the behavior
5. Review Behavior Goal(s) – Review behavior goal(s) jointly with the person and consider modifying goal(s) or behavior change strategy in light of achievement.
6. Discrepancy between current behavior and goal – Draw attention to discrepancies between a person’s current behavior (in and the person’s previously set goals
7. Review Outcome Goal(s) – Review outcome goal(s) jointly with the person and consider modifying goal(s) in light of achievement.
8. Behavioral contract – Create a written specification of the behavior to be performed, agreed on by the person, and witnessed by another
9. Commitment – Ask the person to affirm or reaffirm statements indicating commitment to change the behavior
II. FEEDBACK & MONITORING
10. Monitoring of behavior by others without feedback – Observe or record behavior with the person’s knowledge as part of a behavior change strategy
11. Feedback on behavior – Monitor and provide informative or evaluative feedback on performance of the behavior
12. Self-monitoring of behavior – Establish a method for the person to monitor and record their behavior(s) as part of a behavior change strategy
13. Self-monitoring of outcome(s) of behavior – Establish a method for the person to monitor and record the outcome(s) of their behavior as part of a behavior change strategy
14. Monitoring outcome(s) of behavior by others without feedback – Observe or record outcomes of behavior with the person’s knowledge as part of a behavior change strategy
15. Biofeedback – Provide feedback about the body (e.g. physiological or biochemical state) using an external monitoring device as part of a behavior change strategy
16. Feedback on outcome(s) of behavior – Monitor and provide feedback on the outcome of performance of the behavior
III. SOCIAL SUPPORT
17. Social support (unspecified) – Advise on, arrange or provide social support or non- contingent praise or reward for performance of the behavior.
18. Social support (practical) – Advise on, arrange, or provide practical help for performance of the behavior.
19. Social support (emotional) – Advise on, arrange, or provide emotional social support for performance of the behavior
IV. SHAPING KNOWLEDGE
20. Instruction on how to perform a behavior – Advise or agree on how to perform the behavior (includes ‘Skills training’
21. Information about antecedents – Provide information about antecedents (e.g. social and environmental situations and events, emotions, cognitions) that reliably predict performance of the behaviour
22. Re-attribution – Elicit perceived causes of behavior and suggest alternative explanations
23. Behavioral experiments – Advise on how to identify and test hypotheses about the behavior, its causes and consequences, by collecting and interpreting data
V. NATURAL CONSEQUENCES
24. Information about health consequences – Provide information (e.g. written, verbal, visual) about health consequences of performing the behavior
25. Salience of consequences – Use methods specifically designed to emphasise the consequences of performing the behaviour with the aim of making them more memorable
26. Information about social and environmental consequences – Provide information (e.g. written, verbal, visual) about social and environmental consequences of performing the behavior
27. Monitoring of emotional consequences – Prompt assessment of feelings after attempts at performing the behavior
28. Anticipated regret – Induce or raise awareness of expectations of future regret about performance of the unwanted behavior
29. Information about emotional consequences – Provide information (e.g. written, verbal, visual) about emotional consequences of performing the behavior.
VI. COMPARISON OF BEHAVIOR
30. Demonstration of the behavior – Provide an observable sample of the performance of the behaviour, directly in person or indirectly e.g. via film, pictures, for the person to aspire to or imitate
31. Social comparison – Draw attention to others’ performance to allow comparison with the person’s own performance
32. Information about others’ approval – Provide information about what other people think about the behavior.
33. Prompts/cues – Introduce or define environmental or social stimulus with the purpose of prompting or cueing the behavior.
34. Cue signalling reward – Identify an environmental stimulus that reliably predicts that reward will follow the behavior
35. Reduce prompts/cues – Withdraw gradually prompts to perform the behavior (includes ‘Fading’)
36. Remove access to the reward – Advise or arrange for the person to be separated from situations in which unwanted behavior can be rewarded in order to reduce the behavior (includes ‘Time out’)
37. Remove aversive stimulus – Advise or arrange for the removal of an aversive stimulus to facilitate behavior change (includes ‘Escape learning’)
38. Satiation – Advise or arrange repeated exposure to a stimulus that reduces or extinguishes a drive for the unwanted behavior
39. Exposure – Provide systematic confrontation with a feared stimulus to reduce the response to a later encounter
40. Associative learning – Present a neutral stimulus jointly with a stimulus that already elicits the behavior repeatedly until the neutral stimulus elicits that behavior (includes ‘Classical/Pavlovian Conditioning’)
VIII. REPETITION & SUBSTITUTION
41. Behavioral practice/ rehearsal – Prompt practice or rehearsal of the performance of the behavior one or more times in a context or at a time when the performance may not be necessary, in order to increase habit and skill
42. Behavior substitution – Prompt substitution of the unwanted behavior with a wanted or neutral behavior
43. Habit formation – Prompt rehearsal and repetition of the behavior in the same context repeatedly so that the context elicits the behavior
44. Habit reversal – Prompt rehearsal and repetition of an alternative behavior to replace an unwanted habitual behavior
45. Overcorrection – Ask to repeat the wanted behavior in an exaggerated way following an unwanted behaviour
46. Generalisation of a target behavior – Advise to perform the wanted behaviour, which is already performed in a particular situation, in another situation
47. Graded tasks – Set easy-to-perform tasks, making them increasingly difficult, but achievable, until behavior is performed
IX. COMPARISON OF OUTCOMES
48. Credible source – Present verbal or visual communication from a credible source in favour of or against the behavior
49. Pros and cons – Advise the person to identify and compare reasons for wanting (pros) and not wanting to (cons) change the behavior (includes ‘Decisional balance’)
50. Comparative imagining of future outcomes – Prompt or advise the imagining and comparing of future outcomes of changed versus unchanged behaviour
X. REWARD & THREAT
51. Material incentive (behavior) – Inform that money, vouchers or other valued objects will be delivered if and only if there has been effort and/or progress in performing the behavior (includes ‘Positive reinforcement’)
52. Material reward (behavior) – Arrange for the delivery of money, vouchers or other valued objects if and only if there has been effort and/or progress in performing the behavior (includes ‘Positive reinforcement’)
53. Non-specific reward – Arrange delivery of a reward if and only if there has been effort and/or progress in performing the behavior (includes ‘Positive reinforcement’)
54. Social reward – Arrange verbal or non-verbal reward if and only if there has been effort and/or progress in performing the behavior (includes ‘Positive reinforcement’)
55. Social incentive – Inform that a verbal or non-verbal reward will be delivered if and only if there has been effort and/or progress in performing the behavior (includes ‘Positive reinforcement’)
56. Non-specific incentive – Inform that a reward will be delivered if and only if there has been effort and/or progress in performing the behavior (includes ‘Positive reinforcement’)
57. Self-incentive – Plan to reward self in future if and only if there has been effort and/or progress in performing the behavior
58. Incentive (outcome) – Inform that a reward will be delivered if and only if there has been effort and/or progress in achieving the behavioural outcome (includes ‘Positive reinforcement’)
59. Self-reward – Prompt self-praise or self-reward if and only if there has been effort and/or progress in performing the behavior
60. Reward (outcome) – Arrange for the delivery of a reward if and only if there has been effort and/or progress in achieving the behavioral outcome (includes ‘Positive reinforcement’)
61. Future punishment – Inform that future punishment or removal of reward will be a consequence of performance of an unwanted behavior (may include fear arousal) (includes ‘Threat’)
62. Pharmacological support – Provide, or encourage the use of or adherence to, drugs to facilitate behavior change
63. Reduce negative emotions – Advise on ways of reducing negative emotions to facilitate performance of the behavior (includes ‘Stress Management’)
64. Conserving mental resources – Advise on ways of minimising demands on mental resources to facilitate behavior change
65. Paradoxical instructions – Advise to engage in some form of the unwanted behavior with the aim of reducing motivation to engage in that behaviour
66. Restructuring the physical environment – Change, or advise to change the physical environment in order to facilitate performance of the wanted behavior or create barriers to the unwanted behavior (other than prompts/cues, rewards and punishments)
67. Restructuring the social environment – Change, or advise to change the social environment in order to facilitate performance of the wanted behavior or create barriers to the unwanted behavior ((other than prompts/cues, rewards and punishments)
68. Avoidance/reducing exposure to cues for the behavior – Advise on how to avoid exposure to specific social and contextual/physical cues for the behavior, including changing daily or weekly routines
69. Distraction – Advise or arrange to use an alternative focus for attention to avoid triggers for unwanted behaviour
70. Adding objects to the environment – Add objects to the environment in order to facilitate performance of the behavior
71. Body changes – Alter body structure, functioning or support directly to facilitate behavior change
72. Identification of self as role model – Inform that one’s own behavior may be an example to others
73. Framing/reframing – Suggest the deliberate adoption of a perspective or new perspective on behavior (e.g. its purpose) in order to change cognitions or emotions about performing the behavior (includes ‘Cognitive structuring’)
74. Incompatible beliefs – Draw attention to discrepancies between current or past behavior and self-image, in order to create discomfort (includes ‘Cognitive dissonance’)
75. Valued self-identity – Advise the person to write or complete rating scales about a cherished value or personal strength as a means of affirming the person’s identity as part of a behavior change strategy (includes ‘Self- affirmation’)
76. Identity associated with changed behavior – Advise the person to construct a new self- identity as someone who ‘used to engage with the unwanted behavior’
XIV. Scheduled Consequences
77. Behavior cost – Arrange for withdrawal of something valued if and only if an unwanted behavior is performed (includes ‘Response cost’).
78. Punishment – Arrange for aversive consequence contingent on the performance of the unwanted behavior
79. Remove reward – Arrange for discontinuation of contingent reward following performance of the unwanted behavior (includes ‘Extinction’)
80. Reward approximation – Arrange for reward following any approximation to the target behavior, gradually rewarding only performance closer to the wanted behavior (includes ‘Shaping’)
81. Rewarding completion – Build up behavior by arranging reward following final component of the behavior; gradually add the components of the behavior that occur earlier in the behavioral sequence (includes ‘Backward chaining’)
82. Situation-specific reward – Arrange for reward following the behavior in one situation but not in another (includes ‘Discrimination training’)
83. Reward incompatible behavior – Arrange reward for responding in a manner that is incompatible with a previous response to that situation (includes ‘Counter-conditioning’)
84. Reward alternative behavior – Arrange reward for performance of an alternative to the unwanted behavior (includes ‘Differential reinforcement’)
85. Reduce reward frequency – Arrange for rewards to be made contingent on increasing duration or frequency of the behavior (includes ‘Thinning’)
86. Remove punishment – Arrange for removal of an unpleasant consequence contingent on performance of the wanted behavior (includes ‘Negative reinforcement’)
87. Verbal persuasion about capability – Tell the person that they can successfully perform the wanted behavior, arguing against self-doubts and asserting that they can and will succeed
88. Mental rehearsal of successful performance – Advise to practise imagining performing the behavior successfully in relevant contexts
89. Focus on past success – Advise to think about or list previous successes in performing the behavior (or parts of it)
90. Self-talk – Prompt positive self-talk (aloud or silently) before and during the behavior
XVI. COVERT LEARNING
91. Imaginary punishment – Advise to imagine performing the unwanted behavior in a real-life situation followed by imagining an unpleasant consequence (includes ‘Covert sensitisation’)
92. Imaginary reward – Advise to imagine performing the wanted behavior in a real-life situation followed by imagining a pleasant consequence (includes ‘Covert conditioning’)
93. Vicarious consequences – Prompt observation of the consequences (including rewards and punishments) for others when they perform the behavior