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Triggers cue the user to take action and are the first step of the Hook Model. In short, triggers tell us what to do next. They can be divided into external and internal triggers.

1. External triggers
Open a notification. Click here. Play this.

These types of triggers place information in the user’s’ environment that tells the user what to do next.

Habit-forming technologies start to change behaviors by first cueing users with a call to action.

There are four types of external triggers:


  • paid (e.g. Hotels.com pays to be the first result listed if you Google “hotel”);

  • earned (e.g. a new app lands in the featured section of the App Store);

  • relationship (e.g. your friend sends you an invitation to join AirBnb);

  • owned (e.g. an app icon on your phone screen).

External triggers are only the first step. Their ultimate goal is to propel users into, and through, the Hook Model so that, after successive cycles, they do not need further prompting from external triggers.

2. Internal triggers
When a product becomes tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion or a pre-existing routine, it leverages an internal trigger, which manifests automatically in your mind.

Have you noticed that you check Facebook when you’re bored? Why do you do that? Is it because you’ve checked Facebook when you were bored so many times before, and your brain now associates that action with boredom relief?

With internal triggers, the information is not contained in the trigger itself but instead informed through an association or a memory in the user’s brain.

What we do when we experience certain emotions dictates what we do next. Emotions, specifically negative emotions (bored, lost, afraid, uncertain, confused, anxious) are the most frequent internal triggers. These emotions dictate the technology that we turn to with little or no conscious thought.

Research has shown that people suffering from clinical depression check their email more often. Why is that? Well, those who suffer from depression will likely feel a strong wish to boost their mood, and who knows, maybe there's some great news waiting in that inbox?

Connecting internal triggers with a product is the brass ring of consumer technology.

Today’s task
Think about a behavior you perform routinely. What external and internal triggers activate this behavior? Try to think of a few. While you're at it, why not why not discuss this with someone who's also taking this course?


Have a great day!

Nir Eyal

My blog
My book Hooked