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An Impeccable Model for Effective Behavioural Change (BJ Fogg Model)

Behavioural design is where psychology and technology meet – a systematic way to influence the desired behaviour, one step at a time. There are many models which are proposed and time tested. BJ Fogg model is one of the very few models which are accepted by many and effectively works.

Dr BJ Fogg founded the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University and has done some amazing research on credibility and behavioural design.

His model for driving behavioural changes – called BJ Fogg Behavior Model – explains that three elements must come together at the same time for a behaviour to occur: Motivation, Ability and Trigger.

When a behaviour occurs, it is because all three elements are done right. Bottom line is this:

Behavior = Motivation x Ability x Trigger

Here’s the model:

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Source: BJ Fogg Model

Three behaviour change elements are the following:

  • Motivation — People have to be sufficiently motivated to change their behaviour.
  • Ability — They must have the ability to do the behaviour.
  • Trigger — They have to be triggered, or prompted, to do the behaviour.

Before diving deeper into the elements let us look at the overview of the model,

Overview of the Fogg Behavior Model

Here are four things you can notice right away about the BJ Fogg Model from looking at the graph:

  • As a person’s motivation and ability to perform the target behaviour increase, the more likely it is that they will perform said behaviour.
  • There’s an inverse relationship between motivation and ability. The easier something is to do, the less motivation is needed to do it. On the other hand, the harder something is to do, the more motivation is needed.
  • The action line–lets you know that any behaviour above that line will take place if it’s appropriately triggered. At the same time, any behaviour below the line won’t take place regardless of the trigger used. Why is that? Because if you have practically zero motivation to do something, you won’t do it regardless of how easy it is to do. At the same time, if you’re very motivated to do something, but it’s incredibly difficult to do, you’ll get frustrated and you won’t act.
  • If you want a behaviour to take place, look for ways to boost motivation or ability (or both). In other words, aim for the top right of the model — move along the red line toward the yellow star as shown in the picture below,
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Below you’ll find more information on how to apply the Fogg Behavior Model to trigger behaviour change.

So, let’s get deeper into the elements in our model.

The Three Elements of The Fogg Behavior Model


As you can see from the graph, the Fogg Behavior Model has two axes. The vertical axis is for motivation and it goes from low motivation to high motivation.

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Has already been stated, the more motivated you are to do something, the more likely it is that you’ll do it. According to Fogg, there are six core motivators, grouped into the following three categories:

Sensation: Pleasure/Pain

The result of this motivator is immediate. People are responding to what’s happening at the moment.

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Anticipation: Hope/Fear

Hope is the anticipation of something good happening. BJ Fogg considers hope to be the most ethical and empowering motivator. Fear is the anticipation of something bad happening, often the anticipation of loss.

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Social Cohesion: Social Acceptance/Rejection

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People are motivated to do things that will win social acceptance and status. People are especially motivated to avoid any negative consequences that will lead to them being socially rejected.


The second axis is horizontal, and it’s for ability. It goes from hard to do, to easy to do (or from complicated to simple).

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Although one way to get people to take action in terms of ability is to train them to carry out the target behaviour, Fogg explains that people have a tendency to be lazy. Therefore, it’s a better idea to make behaviour easier. In other words, make things simpler.

Fogg breaks down ability into six sub-components.

  1. Time– The behaviour shouldn’t take up a lot of time, or you probably won’t do it.
  2. Money—If you can’t afford to take a certain behaviour, then you won’t have the ability to carry out that behaviour.
  3. Cognitively Demanding (Mental Effort)—You probably already have a lot to think about, so any new behaviour that you’re trying to take shouldn’t increase your cognitive burden too much.
  4. Physically Demanding (Physical Effort)– For behaviour that requires physical effort, you’re more likely to take action the less physical effort is required.
  5. Social Deviance—It’s not easy for anyone to take behaviour that goes against the social norm.
  6. Non-Routine—You’ll find it a lot easier to take on a new behaviour if you include it in your routine. That is, tie it to something that you’re already doing.

Key Points about Ability:

Each person has a different simplicity profile. Some people have more time, some people have more money, and some people can invest in brain cycles, while others cannot. These factors vary by the individual, but they also vary by the context. For example, if I have forgotten my wallet at home, behaviours that require money at the marketplace may no longer be simple for me to perform.


A trigger is a cue or a call to action. It’s something that says, “Do this now.”

There are three types of triggers in the Fogg Behavior Model, depending on where a person is on the graph:

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A trigger which is applied when there is high ability but low motivation. The trigger should be designed in tandem with a motivational element.

As an example, it’s easy to wake up in the morning when you’ve gotten enough sleep, but you may not be motivated to leave your comfortable, warm bed. If that’s the case, you can get yourself a really loud alarm clock, and place it far away from your bed. When the alarm goes off you’ll definitely be motivated to get out of bed to turn that thing off!


A trigger that is applied when there is high motivation but low ability. It seeks to simplify the task.

As an illustration, suppose that you’re trying to eat healthier but you’re not very organized. You can sign up for a newsletter that is delivered every Sunday morning to your inbox with easy-to-make, delicious recipes for healthy meals. This will prompt you to sit down with the newsletter and plan your meals for the upcoming week, right there and then.


A trigger applied when both motivation and ability are high. This is just a prompt that serves as a reminder. It can be something as simple as a post-it note.

Keep in mind that the trigger has to occur at the right time. That is, it has to occur when the target behaviour is supposed to take place.

Triggers can cause us to act on impulse. For example, when Facebook sends me an email notification that someone has tagged me in a photo, I can immediately click on a link in that email to view the image. This kind of trigger-behaviour coupling has never before been so strong.

Finally, If you’re having trouble getting yourself, or others, to adopt a certain behaviour, ask yourself the following:

  • Is there a motivation problem? If so, how can I fix it? Which of the six core motivators should I apply?
  • Is there an ability problem? If so, how can I fix it? How can I make the behaviour easier or simpler? Which resource is the most scarce (time, money, physical ability, and so on), and how can I address that?
  • Am I using the right trigger? Am I applying the trigger at the right time?
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I strongly recommend watching the below video to get more insights about BJ Fogg model,

Thank you for reading my article, next week I am planning to come up with HOOKED model by Nir Eyal.

To discuss more on this beautiful model drop a comment below.

With 💜& 💡,


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