Article Categories
[ Show ] All [ Hide ]
Clean Language
Article Selections
[ Show ] All [ Hide ]
 »  Home  »  Blog  »  Fogg Model of Behavior Change
James Lawley

James LawleyJames Lawley is a UKCP registered psychotherapist, coach in business, and certified NLP trainer, and professional modeller. He is a co-developer of Symbolic Modelling and co-author (with Penny Tompkins) of Metaphors in Mind: Transformation through Symbolic Modelling. For a more detailed  biography see about us and his blog.

Fogg Model of Behavior Change
By James Lawley | Published  17 08 2013
Download a print-friendly version: 2013-08-17_Fogg_Model_of_Behavior_Change.pdf

BJ Fogg of Stanford University has created a Fogg Behavior Model and a Fogg Behavior Grid. The Grid describes 15 ways behaviour can change and the Model describes three components needed for a behaviour to happen:

The Fogg Behavior Model asserts that for a person to perform a target behavior, he or she must (1) be sufficiently motivated, (2) have the ability to perform the behavior, and (3) be triggered to perform the behavior. These three factors must occur at the same moment, else the behavior will not happen. (BJ Fogg, 2009, A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design,

The Grid is a neat tool that matches five types of behaviour:
Do new
Do familiar
Increase intensity
Decrease intensity
Stop existing
 with three time periods the behaviour can occur:
One time (Dot)
Period of time (Span)
From now on (Path)
To produce the following:

Fogg Behavior Grid from:

For people who wish to change their behaviour – or the behaviour of others – Fogg kindly provides a Behaviour Wizard which helps people select which of the 15 types is appropriate. He gives some general advice derived from the three elements of the Fogg Behavior Model. Further details require purchasing the specific Behaviour Guide relevant to the desired type of behaviour change.

There are many overlaps with Symbolic Modelling, and here are a few that come to  mind:
The desire to do or increase a behaviour is likely to be classified as an Outcome in the PRO model.

Whereas, aiming to decrease or stop a behaviour is a Remedy since it leaves unspecified what will be happening in place of the decreased or stopped behaviour (assuming people cannot do nothing).

Do familiar behaviour is, assuming the behaviour is valued by the person doing it, equivalent to a Resource in our REPROCess model.

The increase/decrease intensity categories are examples of scaling

The Dot-Span-Path categories can be mapped on to Peak-Plateau-Permanent experiences, an idea we borrowed from Ken Wilber in our model of the transition from self-deception to acting from what you know to be true.
As modellers the Grid reminds us that we need to pay attention to some key distinctions:
Does a client’s desired Outcome suggest he or she would like more of something they already have or do, or do they like to start doing a completely new behaviour?

Does a client’s proposed Remedy indicate that he or she would like to reduce an existing behaviour, or stop it all together?

Has the client ever accessed the desired state or done the behaviour they want more of? Or as Fogg puts it, are they familiar with it? This is an important distinction because if the answer is ‘no’ then the client will need to construct a map and/or learn the behaviour from scratch. And that is a different process to expanding or enhancing or repeating more frequently an existing ability.
Strengths and Weaknesses

If we ignore the outlandish statement that “all successful interventions work by altering at least one element from the Fogg Behavior Model” (all?), there is a lot of value in thinking about behaviour change  this way. In particular the idea that you need to match the intervention to the type of change required (since no one method works for everything).

I like Fogg’s suggestion that we can increase an ability by designing in simplicity. Rather than thinking how to teach old dogs new tricks that they find difficult, he asks how can we make the new tricks easier to do? e.g. since most people don’t want to look up stuff in a user manual, it’s better to make a product easy enough to use without a user manual. Rather than fight ‘the path of least resistance’ (Fritz) it is better to make sure it leads to where you want to go. In this way people will receive a ‘nudge’ (Thaler & Sunstein) in the desired direction.

The strength of the Fogg model is its simplicity, but it is also its weakness.  The formula B=MAT (Behaviour = Motivation, Ability and a Trigger, all at the same time) looks neat on paper and it makes a kind of common sense, but there is more to the way humans function than this simple formula implies.

For a start it doesn’t account for the systemic, self-reflexive nature of the human mind. I have seen people who are highly motivated, have the ability and know the triggers, yet they do not have consistent behaviour change. Something else is happening. Often they are in a (double) bind.

One aspect absent from the Fogg Behavior Model is meaning. The meaning we give any context will massively impact our behaviours. For example, ‘reframing’ (Bandler & Grinder) works when we change what a situation means, and that enables us to do or say things we couldn’t before. No one would argue with Fogg’s assertion that “Attitude change and behavior change are different” but are they independent? I think not. Motivation and meaning are inextricably linked.

There is more than a hint of circularity (or as Gregory Bateson called it the ‘Dormative Principle’) about the idea that when a person has “sufficient motivation” they will do a behaviour.  Given that ‘motivation’ means “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something” how would we know a person had “sufficient” motivation? Because they did the behaviour!

I have contacted Dr. Fogg suggesting there maybe other distinctions of behaviour change to consider. Below I give three examples.

1. The grid puts both “intensity” and “duration” in the same Increase/Decrease Intensity categories. I think there is value in keeping the distinction separate since they are different kinds of experience. There is a qualitative difference, for example,  between wanting to increase the time I meditate by five minutes per week (duration) and wanting to get a deeper experience of meditation (intensity).

2. Fogg gives an example of a Familiar Path: “Drink two bottles of water each day from now on”.  Given we are talking about a change of behaviour, the person cannot already be drinking two bottles of water a day and therefore this is the same as his example of an Increase Intensity Path: “Eat more fruits and vegetables each day into the future”. Since it is only possible to Increase something you are already Familiar with doing (otherwise it would be a New behaviour), the two categories are always going to overlap.

3. Further, if we ask the question: Increase/Decrease what? We can answer using our Time-Space-Form-Level-Perceiver model. Fogg mentions two factors:
Form        Intensity
Time        Duration
And we can add:
Space        Context/domain
Level         Scope (e.g. specific behaviour or class of behaviours)
Perceiver    Role/Identity/Perceptual position
For example, I do not see how the grid caters for cross-domain behaviour change when a person or organisation wants to be able to do an existing behaviour in a place/context where they don’t already do it. e.g. I am patient at work and I want to be more patient with my children. Or, we sell widgets in country X and we want to also sell them in country Y. Are these examples of ‘new’, ‘familiar’, or ‘increased’ behaviour? Any one or all three I suggest. What is not catered for is the cross-domain aspect.

The inability to map what we do in one domain into another is a major limitation for some people. A classic example is the inability to transfer learning from a training to the workplace, or insight in therapy/coaching into ‘real life’. In business it is given the metaphor ‘silo thinking’. On the other hand many examples of serendipity involve noticing that the way something works can be applied in a novel area – burrs on socks becoming velcro is one well-known story. Penny Tompkins and I ran a Developing Group workshop on cross-domain thinking recently and I will publish our notes in due course.

To conclude

Fogg’s models and grids are simple to understand, make some nice distinctions and emphasise that there is no one magic method for changing behaviour; rather the cloth has to be tailored to the kind of behaviour change required. In our Self-Nudge model we take this idea further and have individuals design their own personal-dynamic-behaviour-change process which uses trial-and-feedback to adapt to their successes and failures. The Fogg Behaviour Grid could come in handy for the self-nudger who wants to consider a broad range of ways to change behaviour.

Thanks to Brian Birch for alerting to me to the website.


Clean Events

James Lawley
Penny Tompkins
Sharon Small
5-18 Jan 2018

Intro to CL and SyM
Enhancing & Integrating SyM Skills
Self-Modelling Retreat
Clean Interviewing
view all featured events