In the first lesson, you learned about how an educational approach is usually not the most effective approach to driving behavior change. Instead of simply educating consumers and users, behavioral economists use an understanding of our common behavioral biases in order to drive positive behavioral change. You’ll learn about each of these common biases in this course.

The first step in changing behavior is understanding which behavior we want to change. That sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, a common mistake in product development is to focus on the outcome rather than on the behavior. For example, an extremely common desired behavior is “greater retention.” However, this isn’t a behavior. It’s the outcome of specific user behaviors.

When we want to change the behavior of our users, we need to focus our goals on the particular  behavior, not on the outcome. What does this look like? Instead of reporting on “active use” or “retention” as general outcomes, we should measure how many times a behavior has been completed.

For example, some behaviors for a mobile banking app are:

• Transferring money from checking to savings;
• Depositing a check online;
• Setting up a bill on auto-pay

A second mistake we often see is that people often write out vague desired behaviors, such as: “get people to eat better.” This behavior is too complex. Break it down so that you can identify the ways in which to trigger the specific behaviors at the right time and in the right context. In this case, some better behaviors would be:

  • Buying vegetables;

  • Drinking water;

  • Throwing away candy.

See the difference? Good.


Now you are ready to define what behaviors you want your customers/users to perform. Take a few minutes and write down three small and specific behaviors.  Next, how about you share yours with your team?  Have everyone email in their top three behaviors to you to see if they are the same.

Irrationally yours