“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 behaviour, and 3) be triggered to perform the behaviour (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 the desired behaviour, we need a “signal” – in other words: a prompt, 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 behaviour into our conscious awareness, and most importantly:
  3. the trigger happens at a moment when we are both motivated and able to perform the behaviour.


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 behaviours in my life don’t happen because I don’t get a trigger at the right moment.”

Signalling Prompts, Triggers, Reminders & Alerts

Signalling Prompts, Triggers, Reminders & Alerts

Another example B.J. provides himself is a FaceBook example;

When you haven’t used your Facebook account in a while, Facebook automatically sends a signalling prompt (email) to make you sign into Facebook again. This ‘reminder’ prompts you to visit your account again (and it is the beginning of their efforts to make you spend more and more time on the platform).


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 behaviour.
  • 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).


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Further reading about signalling triggers: