“Even when highly motivated and able, we need a little reminder to make us act”

In order for us to act, we must 1) be sufficiently motivated, 2) have the ability to perform the behavior, and 3) be triggered to perform the behavior (based on B.J Fogg’s 2009 paper describing his Fogg Behavioral Model). Even when we have both the ability and the motivation to perform a desired behavior, we need a “signal, reminder, alert, etc.” – in other words: a trigger or nudge in order to act.

When motivation and ability are high, these reminders, signals and alerts should not try to motivate us more, or simplify the task (that could even be annoying or condescending). Nor does it really matter what form the trigger takes. From alarms, text messages, mobile push messages, or a call-out or pop-up on your website: they simply have to make us consciously aware of the option.

Successful triggers have three characteristics:

  1. We notice them.
  2. It brings the desired behavior into our conscious awareness, and most importantly:
  3. the trigger happens at a moment when we are both motivated and able to perform the behavior.

Scientific research example:

In his 2009 paper, B.J Fogg provides the following example from his own life: one of B.J.’s goals is to practice the ukulele each day. Although he is highly motivated to play the instrument, and it’s easy to do, he often misses a well-timed trigger. B.J. lacks something or someone that says, “Hey, right now is a great time to play the ukulele!” and without this trigger he doesn’t practice.

“Many other target behaviors in my life don’t happen because I don’t get a trigger at the right moment.”

Online Persuasion tips:

Are your customers both highly motivated and able to act as you’d like (e.g. buy or use your product)?

  • Analyze what the optimal timing is to remind them of the option of this desired behavior.
  • Analyze which media and devices can be used to intervene with your reminder or trigger an alert at that precise moment.
  • Push your reminder/alert, simply bringing the option into their conscious awareness (without referring to e.g. motivators or task simplicity).


Further reading about facilitating triggers: