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Want to increase impact? Change behavior.

We humans make thousands of choices every day. It might surprise you but 95% of these choices are made unconsciously. Imagine if we had to make all these decisions consciously. We’d have no energy left for the fun things in life. Our unconscious choices aren’t random; they’re based on past experiences, intuition and emotion. Understanding how and why people make certain choices allows you to smartly influence them. This is where Behavioral Design comes into play. It cleverly leverages the fact that the vast majority of our decisions are made unconsciously. It’s a method for creating positive changes in people’s behavior. In this blog, we’ll discuss the impact of Behavioral Design and how you can use it methodically to make change happen. Because true impact is only made when actual behavior changes.

 

The impact of Behavioral Design

Let’s start at the beginning. Behavioral Design is a method for designing products, services and interventions aimed at achieving behavioral change. As mentioned earlier, understanding how people make decisions allows you to influence them and thus design behavior in a predictable manner. The Behavioral Design method utilizes insights from science and behavioral psychology, employing compelling visual cues, simplified choices and emotional stimuli to alter behavior.

 

The goal of Behavioral Design is to create positive impact through targeted behavioral change. By impact, we mean the effect that an action, person or organization has on others. To make an impact, change is always necessary. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the current and desired situations, so you can systematically work towards positive change. The following example will help you better understand the Behavioral Design method.

 

Example

Currently, we are facing a global plastic problem, with excessive plastic waste, microplastics and the Great Pacific garbage patch being all too familiar issues. We rely heavily on plastic because it’s versatile and inexpensive. Imagine you want to transition from this current state to a desired future: a world without plastic. Your goal is to reduce global plastic usage. Behavioral Design strategies can aid in achieving this goal and in fostering behavioral change. For instance, you might introduce a reward system for using reusable bags or make it easier and more appealing to opt for plastic alternatives. These Behavioral Design strategies aim to alter people’s behavior, enabling you to create the desired impact—in this case, reduced plastic use. Thus, Behavioral Design initiates the chain reaction leading to the change we wish to see in the world.

 

Increasing impact

In addition to changing the behavior of a specific target group, Behavioral Design can also realize change on a large scale. For example, it can be applied in public health campaigns, education and environmental protection. Let me zoom in on the example of environmental protection.

 

Imagine launching an interactive app that helps residents engage with waste separation in a fun and easy way. Such a solution could start on a small scale, for example, in one neighborhood of a city. If the solution proves to be successful, it has the potential to expand, possibly to a citywide level. By adapting and optimizing the app so that it can be used in different neighborhoods, the behavior of a much larger group of people can be influenced. At the city level, the positive effects of the app could contribute to a more sustainable city. Subsequently, you could even adjust the app for nationwide use. That’s when you really make a significant impact on the environment.

 

The challenges of behavioral design

Behavioral Design might seem like a powerful method with the potential for significant impact. However, it also comes with various ethical dilemmas. Designers bear responsibility for the impact their work has. Therefore, it’s crucial to carefully consider how the products, services and interventions impact user autonomy and well-being.

 

An example of an ethical issue could be a weight loss app. The app encourages users to adopt a healthier lifestyle by showing the number of calories they’ve burned each day. It also allows users to compare their progress with that of friends. This introduces a competitive motivation among users.

 

Although the intention is good, this approach can unintentionally lead to obsessive behavior regarding nutrition and eating patterns. It might also contribute to the formation of a poor self-image that the user has about their body. If designers are not careful with how they present these comparisons and the norms they promote, they could harm users’ well-being rather than help it.

 

The ethical dilemmas of the weight loss app could potentially reinforce the user’s negative self-image or even lead to eating disorders. This is not the aim of Behavioral Design. Therefore, it’s up to the designers to shape the app in a way that encourages positive change, without overlooking the psychological health of the user. This might mean incorporating features that emphasize health over aesthetics, or features that provide support in recognizing unhealthy patterns.

 

Shaping a better world

Behavioral Design is thus a powerful tool for creating products, services and interventions that can positively influence user behavior. By applying knowledge from science and behavioral psychology, designers cannot only meet user needs but also contribute to addressing urgent social challenges. The future of design is not just about aesthetics but about shaping a better world through thoughtful and well-designed behavioral changes.

 

What would you like to change using the principles of Behavioral Design? Share your thoughts with us and let’s explore together how we can reshape our environment for a better future. Check out our guide for more insight and inspiration!

about the author
Sam Vekemans
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ve gained some valuable insights from the article! I’m Sam Vekemans, Creative Designer at Stay Future Proof. Want to learn all about behavioral design and storytelling? Reach out and let’s talk!
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