The story

Using applied psychology and rapid testing to create systems that change human behavior IS new. It is called Behavior Design.

Short Story of Behavior Design

Stanford University and Dr. BJ Fogg are the two strongest roots of Behavior Design.

Dr. Fogg, director of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, pioneered Behavior Design through his research and industry contributions.

Although the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab was founded in 1998, "Behavior Design" did not gain significant traction until 2007 with "Faceook App" class taught by Dr. Fogg and Dave McClure, founder of 500 Startups.

Numerous students from that class either sold their companies or went onto founding ones that change behavior. Two notable companies would be Instagram and Pulse. The famous NYTimes article on the class can be found here.

Since that class, many notable pioneers of Behavior Design come out of Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab.

On June 16, 2013 Stanford became the first university to have a Behavior Design major graduate -- David Ngo.

Actually, David Ngo is me.

I'm writing this because:
1) I love the field and am always learning
2) I often get asked "How do I learn Behavior Design? Who do I talk to if I want to apply Behavior Design to 'X' field?"

Actually, I asked many of the same questions during my time at Stanford. Because the field is so new, there were very few academic classes that catered exclusively to Behavior Design. So I had to learn in the real world. And these are the people, resources, and events that I found, studied, worked with personally, or heard about.

Hope it's helpful to you.

The History of Behavior Design at a Glance

  • Dr. Fogg founded Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab

  • Stanford Facebook App Class is Taught by McClure & Fogg

  • Instagram Acquired for $1 Billion by Facebook

  • Pulse Acquired for $90 Million by LinkedIn

  • Stanford Graduates First Behavior Design Major



Pioneers of Behavior Design

Note: These are my personal understandings and descriptions of each behavior designer. Their picture links to their main sites.


BJ Fogg

The founder of Behavior Design. Amazing teacher. BJ focuses on Innovation across sectors that do good in the world.

David Ngo

The creator of Stanford University's first Behavior Design major program, and also co-founder of Behavior Design X. A member of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab.

Robert Cialdini

Cialdini brought to the world the six universal principles of influence. Cialdini focuses on teaching and ethically applying his persuasion principles for business leadership.

Enrique Allen

The founder of the Designer Fund. Enrique and the Designer Fund focuses on empowering designers to be the founding members of startups. An alumni of the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab.

Jason Hreha

The pioneer of User Experience and Behavior Design. Jason founded Dopamine Inc, a UX design firm. An alumni of the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab.

Ramit Sethi

The pioneer of Personal Finance and Behavior Design. Ramit also founded BehaviorCon. Focuses on creating systems for personal finance. An alumni of the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab.

Steph Habif

Also think Health, Strategy, and Behavior Design. Steph has taught Behavior Design at the Stanford Design School, founded the Stanford Calming Technology Lab, and a part of Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab.

Margarita Quihuis

Think Behavior Design, Peace, & Social Entrepreneurship. A co-director of the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab. Margarita and Mark and paving a new way to make this world a better place. (The Peace Innovation Lab is a part of the Persuasive Tech Lab.)

Mark Nelson

The other co-director of the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab. Also think Behavior Design, Peace, & Social Entrepreneurship. (The Peace Innovation Lab is a part of the Persuasive Tech Lab.)

Nir Eyal

Think startups, strategy, and behavior design. Nir blogs, teaches, and advances the field of Behavior Design through his Hook Model and startup insights.

Neema Moraveji

The director of the Stanford Calming Technology Lab. Think Behavior Design and Mindfulness. Neema is currently working on his company Spire. An alumni of the Persuasive Technology Lab.

Kyra Bobinet

Think health, Strategy, and Behavior Design. Kyra brought behavior design to Aetna when she worked there. Now she's bringing her talents to as many clients as possible. An active member of Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab.

Nic Chapa

Think Behavior Design and Mobile. Nic focuses on mobile apps and using behavior design to get results. An alumni of the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab.

Andrew Martin

Think Behavior Design and Product. Andrew focuses on all things UX, UI, & Product in both mobile apps and web apps to create a beautiful & result-oriented experience. He's an active member of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab.

Andrew Zimmerman

Think behavior design and finance for professional athletes. He's also an active member of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab.

Shirley Rivera

Think Behavior Design and Workplace Habits. Now smile and add Improvisation. Shirley focuses on creating amazing habits, cultural shifts, and meaningful interactions in conventional workplace environments.

Tim Ferris

Although he isn't normally associated as a "behavior designer," this man is definitely the master of Lifestyle and Behavior Design. Tim is often known as the author of the Four Hour Work Week. He experiments with every aspect of life, learning, dancing, cooking, and -- I don't even know -- who ARE you?

Dan Klein

Probably has never been considered a "behavior designer," but Dan taught me Improv at Stanford. I learned as much about behavior change as I did improv. Dan focuses on using Improv to help C-Level executives in their leadership and business.


Upcoming Events





BJ Fogg's Behavior Design Boot Camp Aug. 28-29

"For two days we work together, and you become a master of behavior design. Sharing and teaching like this is really fun. It’s my favorite format -- two days, small group, hands on. At each boot camp I become friends with fascinating people. I’m always sad to see the events end..." read more on BJ's website

Go to BJ's Boot Camp





David Ngo's Behavior Design + Wellbeing Program with Kim Nicol

This 5 day, 4 night journey is the first program of it's kind. We're calling it Awareness Academy X. Taking place on a small island in the Caribbean, AAX is focused on building the Habit of Awareness while teaching behavior design tools to apply to professional & personal life. 10 attendees will be chosen. Applications are due on August 29th, 2014.

Go to Awareness Academy X





Nir Eyal's 3-Hour Hooked Workshop

"This seminar is for anyone seeking to understand habit-forming product design. No previous background is required. The workshop is tailored to entrepreneurs, product managers, or designers working in companies large or small...Read more at Nir's website

Go to Nir's Hooked Model





Have an event that's related to designing for behavior change?

If you have an event and want to advertise it on learnbehaviordesigns, just send a message over!



To Learn About Behavior Design

Books to Read


Dr. Robert Cialdini's Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion has been fundamental to learning behavior design. He discovered the six universal human principles of influence. The more influence principles that are integrated in the design, the stronger the results. (kindle version)

Karen Pryor's Don't Shoot the Dog! is a must read for understanding positive reinforcement and the important of timing. BJ requires his students to read this prior to the first day of every behavior design course.

BJ's first book written about how to use technology to change behavior is Persuasive Technology. Definitely recommended, but would be in the medium-level category. (kindle version)

Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit is the book to understand why we get hooked onto doing certain things in our lives. It's packed with examples, like how Target uses applied psych and buying patterns to know that you're pregnant before you do. An important note is that BJ is breaking grounds on designing for habits via his Tiny Habits program. (kindle version)

Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior is excellent and scary. It's excellent because it completely opens up an entire new world for designing. Most of the time we design for conscious, tangible behaviors. It's scary because of how POWERFUL it can be. (kindle version)

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is on my reading list and has been recommended several times. To my understanding, it's all the top psychology principles that we design for from more of a neuroscience perspective. (kindle version)

Behavior Design and Your Personal Finances

Ramit Sethi's I Will Teach You To Be Rich is probably the only book dedicated to creating personal finance systems in your life from a behavior design perspective. Ramit is one of BJ's past students and alumni from the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab. (kindle version)

Behavior Design and Your Lifestyle

Tim Ferris's Four Hour Series are packed with self experiments, case studies, and methods that have worked to change his life and other people's lives. Personally, his 4-Hour Workweek changed the kind of lifestyle that I've been wanting to build for myself. (I read it in high school).

  • The 4-Hour Workweek is all about tested methods to design your lifestyle. (kindle version)
  • The 4-Hour Body focuses on rapid fat loss, incredible sex, sleep, supplements, all designs that focus on your health. (kindle version)
  • The 4-Hour Chef is essentially behavior designing yourself to learn any skill that you want. Some real nuggets in here. (kindle version)

  • Behavior Design and UX

    Neuro Web Design is a good book that focuses on behavior designing web UX. It's definitely great for refreshing or simply seeing how to apply psych concepts to designing UX. (kindle edition)

    Behavior Design and Personal Relationships, Presenting, & Improv

    One of the most influential classes at Stanford on me was Improv with Dan Klein. These books were gold. Not only did I learn how to change behavior, but also to practice daily behaviors that make life more fulfilling. You'll understand if you check them out.

    Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Ryan is gold. Probably the best out of the three improv books that I'm recommending. She was also the head improv teacher (that taught Dan Klein when he was a student). (kindle version)

    Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone was the book we had for Beginners Improv. The games that he introduces are amazing for ice breakers, team building, and client interaction. These are designs that work to change behavior. Same with Johnstone's next book. (kindle version)

    Impro for Storytellers is Johnstone's book that focuses on crafting compelling stories. Recently, people have been saying that the ability to tell stories is dying out in the upcoming generations. (sorry I couldn't find a kindle version).