The Fogg Model and Behavioural Change

Author: Marc De San Pedro   /  8 of February of 2019

Dr B.J. Fogg was the first scientist to articulate the concept of “captology”, or the study of how computers can be used to persuade people to change their attitude or behaviour. He started his research in 1993 and continued to emphasize the potential and challenges facing persuasive technology. In 2010, his research moved away from persuasive technology towards a more general study of human behaviour, an approach he named “Behaviour Design”.

The concept expressed by Fogg can be summed up in the following equation: ‘B = MAT’. ‘Behaviour’ is the word Fogg uses to describe someone’s conduct; However, the question is most often aimed at how people can be trained to perform the right actions; This is the essence of what Fogg calls behaviour design. Fogg suggests that three key elements are needed to achieve this: motivation, skill and an ‘activator/detonator’ (which can be provided by ICT). When these three elements combine, people are able to make important changes to their environment.

Let’s examine the three components separately:

Motivation: People must be sufficiently motivated to change their behaviour

Ability: People need to possess the ability to manage their behaviour

Trigger: Users must be encouraged to change their behaviour (such as through the use of an attractive design or the use of gamification through ICT).

According to Fogg, if one of these elements is missing, a change in behaviour will not occur.

There are at least four important elements to take into account:

  • As a person’s motivation and skills increases, it is more likely that this will lead to a new behaviour.
  • There is an inverse relationship between motivation and ability. When it is easier to do something, less motivation is needed to do it. On the other hand, when something is more difficult to do, more motivation is required.
  • The line of action -the curved line- indicates that any behaviour above this line will take place if it is stimulated appropriately. Meanwhile, any behaviour below this line will not take place even in the presence of stimulation. Why is this the case? Because if someone has virtually no motivation to do something, they will fail to do it no matter how simple it may be. At the same time, if someone feels very motivated to do something, but it is incredibly difficult to do, they will feel frustrated and will fail to take action.
  • If one is looking for ways to make a particular type of behaviour occur, one needs to find ways to increase people’s motivation or ability (or both). In other words, one ought to go to the top right of the model and move along the red line towards the yellow star.

In summary, the Fogg Model seems to be a good guide to understanding why certain behaviours occur and what needs to be done to make certain things happen. It also makes me think of a parallel with the concept of “Competence”. Competence = Attitude + Capacity + Knowledge, where attitude corresponds to motivation, capacity to ability and knowledge can be likened to the trigger which is necessary to activate a situation.


Forget big change, start with a tiny habit: BJ Fogg at TEDxFremont

BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model

A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design


A Failproof Model for Triggering Behavior Change

Conocimientos, habilidades y actitudes




  • ICTs can help improve habits