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The 3 laws of human behaviour, #1

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

Humans are complex, there’s no doubt about it. But our behaviour can be understood and influences with surprisingly simple mechanics and nudges.

The science of behaviour and motivation is growing at a rapid rate as organisations are seeking ways to cut through the noise and create meaningful engagement. With this demand comes an increased focus on research and, much like the explosion of research in the physical sciences 300 years ago, there is a plethora of research and findings on behavioural sciences today.

Aline Holzwarth describes 3 laws of human behaviour, each of which we will introduce in turn. These 3 laws offer a useful heuristic when designing organisational change and gamified experiences.

Illustration by Matt Trower

Law # 1 Status Quo

Because of our evolutionary history, our brains prefer the status quo, the current state, we perceive what we know as being safer than an uncertain future. To our brain, uncertainty could mean danger, so it prefers the safety and comfort of what it knows rather than the uncertainty and cognitive load that comes with learning and experiencing new things.

So when designing for behaviour change you need to first acknowledge that people will resist change by default, and then create enough forward momentum to make the change worth it. This is sometimes called ‘friction’ and ‘fuel’, where friction is the resistance to change and fuel is the incentive to change. When seeking to change behaviour, whether it be your own or another’s, you need to implement enough incentives (fuel) to overcome the bias towards the current behaviour (friction). Gamification is a powerful way to do this.

Read about law #2 and #3 here.

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Illustrations by Matt Trower

For the full article by Aline Holzwarth, click below.

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