How to Understand and Influence Behavior

February 22, 2023

Today, I want to talk about a simple but powerful framework that can help you understand and influence your own and others’ behaviors. It’s called the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM) and it was created by BJ Fogg, a professor and director of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University.

Fogg’s Behavior Model

The FBM states that three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: motivation, ability, and prompt. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing. Let’s look at each element in more detail.


Motivation is your desire to do a certain behavior. It can be influenced by different factors, such as pleasure or pain, hope or fear, and social acceptance or rejection. The higher your motivation, the more likely you are to do a behavior.


Ability is your capacity to do a certain behavior. It can be influenced by different factors, such as time, money, physical effort, mental effort, social deviance, and non-routine. The easier a behavior is to do, the more likely you are to do it.


Prompt is a cue that reminds you to do a certain behavior. It can be internal or external. An internal prompt is something that comes from within you, such as a thought or a feeling. An external prompt is something that comes from outside you, such as a notification or a person. The more effective a prompt is, the more likely you are to do a behavior.

How the FBM Works

The FBM can help you design for behavior change in two ways. First, you can use it to diagnose why a behavior is not happening and identify which element is missing or weak. Second, you can use it to design solutions that increase motivation, ability, and/or prompt for the desired behavior.

For example, let’s say you want to start exercising regularly. You can use the FBM to analyze your current situation and find out what is preventing you from doing this behavior. Maybe you lack motivation because you don’t enjoy exercising or you don’t see the benefits. Maybe you lack ability because you don’t have enough time or money to join a gym or buy equipment. Maybe you lack prompt because you don’t have a reminder or a routine to exercise.

Once you identify the problem, you can use the FBM to design solutions that address it. For example, you can increase your motivation by finding an exercise that you like or setting a goal and tracking your progress. You can increase your ability by finding ways to exercise at home or with minimal equipment or scheduling your exercise time in advance. You can increase your prompt by setting an alarm or a calendar event or finding an exercise buddy or a coach.

The FBM is not only useful for personal behavior change but also for designing products or services that change people’s behaviors for the better. For example, if you are creating an app that helps people meditate, you can use the FBM to make sure that your app motivates people to meditate, makes it easy for them to meditate, and prompts them to meditate at the right time.


The FBM is one of the most popular and practical models in behavior design. It can help you understand how behaviors work and how to change them effectively. If you want to learn more about the FBM and other behavior design methods, I recommend checking out BJ Fogg’s website and book.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and learned something new. Thanks for reading and see you next time!

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