Behavioral Design 2020 and Beyond

Opinions, predictions, and thoughts from leaders in the field

Samuel Salzer
Behavioral Design Hub
32 min readFeb 27, 2020


The beginning of this new decade is a perfect moment to reflect on how far behavioral design has come in the past ten years and what it might grow into in the coming decade. Our intention was to collate behavioral design insights from a variety of experts into one piece of content we can all use as a resource for ourselves and to share our work with the world. This collection features multi-disciplinary perspectives, showcasing the potential of behavioral design to impact human behavior at the individual, organizational, and policy levels. The experts featured in this collection offer food for thought for peers and the wider public on where behavioral design could go in the next decade and what is needed in order to better deliver impactful experiences across multiple industries and applications, ultimately bettering people’s lives.

1. Introduction
2. The challenges we face
3. Code of ethics
4. Methodology revolution
5. A focus on impact
6. A call for inter-and multi-disciplinarity
7. Top 10 Recommendations
8. Conclusions

This post includes the highlights from all selected contributions curated based on the major themes and topics at hand. To read all the wonderful contributions in their entirety, please refer to the full report that can be freely accessed here.

A Note on Terminology

As the various terms used by our contributors in this report indicate, all the sub-disciplines and different professions of behavioral design are still to unite under one umbrella term. In this collection, we have collated all areas of expertise committed to understanding and positively influencing behavioral outcomes under the term “behavioral design” to allude to the convening of research and implementation in the pursuit of changing behavior for good. Additionally, you will see contributors use other terms, such as behavioral economics and behavioral science. Please note that while these represent different fields of research, we see them as all sub-disciplines of the same field of expertise aiming to create positive behaviors in the world at the individual, organizational, and societal levels.

One thing we can all agree on as a professional community is the difficulty of changing behavior. Kristen Berman, one of our contributors said it best:

“Behavior change is hard. It’s hard to start, it’s hard to sustain.”

- Kristen Berman

Our look at the present and future of the field starts with this seemingly somber admittance. Yet it is this fact that has given rise to our field and continues to propel it further. If it wasn’t difficult and complex, we would surely lack both purpose and meaning.

The last decade was the breakout era for behavioral design, science, and analysis. From academic research to economic, policy, and design applications, a behavioral perspective lends itself to multiple use cases and industries. Our reach as a field, however, could still have a greater positive impact in many additional, untouched contexts.

I see a future where behavioural science sits firmly in the world of social good. Humans run, and ruin, the world, and behavioural science helps us understand and drive changes in human behaviour. I envisage a world where people and systems are empowered with a solid knowledge of behavioural science and use this knowledge to make the world a better place.

Monica Parker
Founder, HATCH Analytics

We might especially see increased utilization of behavioral design in healthcare, a relatively untapped, but highly ripe area of operation for this field.

In the next ten years, healthcare systems will come to terms with the emerging era of consumer-driven healthcare (including newfound competition from non-traditional healthcare providers like Walmart and Amazon) and technology platforms will mature to foster much-needed innovation within healthcare systems.

Digital health, in particular, is ripe for the opportunity to incorporate behavioral science. Technologies that enable people to track and aggregate data from wearables and smart devices, combined with the ability for caretakers to reach patients through their smartphones, holds promise for more targeted interventions that reach people at the right time and place. The next decade will see healthcare begin to embrace behavioral science findings and methodologies, moving beyond the transactional one-size-fits-all delivery of care to a personalized model designed for the humans who move through it. But most importantly, the shift toward human-centered, evidence-based healthcare systems will lead to higher patient engagement and outcomes.

Aline Holzwarth
Applied Behavioral Scientist at Pattern Health & Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University

“If the 2010s were the awkward teenage years for our fledgling behavioral science, the 2020s will see us enter into adulthood.“

- Nick Hobson

Behavioral design has shown the growing pains of any emerging area of expertise and the next decade will note a considerable refinement of how we define ourselves as a field, a practice and a professional community.

My hypothesis is that the 2020s is the decade for behavioral science. Jobs, industries, mandate, budget, talent, training, conversation, coverage — there’s steady growth, year over year. Ten years ago, could you have ever imagined the role of a Chief Behavioral Officer in an organization? Not a chance. Today, it’s a distinct competitive advantage. Even the Fortune 100s are all aboard the behavior train.

If the 2010s were the awkward teenage years for our fledgling behavioral science, the 2020s will see us enter into adulthood. The last few years we’ve been struggling with a bit of an identity crisis. What do we call ourselves? How do we convince others we’re cool and relevant? In what ways are we unique? In time, we’ll outgrow this bumbling awkwardness and figure out who we really are, where we really fit in.

Nick Hobson
Chief Behavioral Officer, The Behaviorist

This refinement process might see us balance the promotion of behavioral design to the world with a quieter, closer process of detailing the toolkits, frameworks and use cases of our field in parallel.

I am reminded of the early years and decades of the natural sciences (things move a bit more quickly now). From the end of the Renaissance period onward, as the foundations of the natural sciences were being laid, for a good few centuries public demonstrations of the emerging insights in medicine, physics and chemistry often featured spectacular, almost circus-like experiments. Behavioural science went through a similar evolution in about twenty years, but popular perception was likewise shaped by the more sensational findings regarding the alleged human irrationality.

My expectation (and let’s be honest, also my hope) is that what happened next in the natural sciences indicates what will happen in behavioural science. Gradual but relentless refinement and ongoing discovery of complex detail may no longer wow the general public, but will solidify the foundations on which our understanding of human behaviour, and how it can be shaped for the better, is built.

Koen Smets
Organization Development Adviser

The world is also yearning for more products and services that understands and empowers the end-user, as evidenced by the continuously growing self-development, -hacking and -growth movements. This is an exciting space where behavioral design could certainly play an important part.

Complemented by modern yearnings for individual and community sovereignty, emerging self-hacking cultures and a deepening appreciation for mental health, many people around the world are showing a growing appetite for learning how they can nudge themselves towards better wealth, health and happiness.

What’s more, is that we are quickly moving into a time where these desires can be satisfied. Technology, especially digital technology is enabling us to move beyond the conventional roles of the user, as a passive consumer of a particular experience, and into spaces where the newly available flexibility empowers active, creative roles to emerge.

David Perrott
Independent Consultant & Applied Behavioral Scientist

“Focusing on the individual unit can yield solutions that are effective in isolation, but don’t sufficiently question whether the system in which they play is itself equitable.”

— Ruth Schmidt

The behavioral design field certainly face several challenges ahead and going into the new decade we must not be afraid to scrutinize our current faults and frailties. One area to perhaps give extra attention is what limits our goal of creating a greater positive impact.

Applied science will need to get bolder and a little more comfortable with noise. Most behavioral scientists are experimentalists, trained to maximize control and understand mechanism. We’re running giant field studies with lots of conditions, but these are still just testing small changes in big systems: the wording of instructions in an app or the letters we send taxpayers.

How do we truly integrate the principles of behavioral science into our world? How can we give designers templates for new systems? What’s a bar look like built to reduce loneliness? What’s a city look like built to reduce commutes? How can we eat less meat, fly less, reduce prejudice, re-skill/up-skill, fight Nimbyism?

These will be tough studies to run, but this is our challenge. Behavioral science isn’t sloppy science, but it also isn’t lab science. Prioritizing impact isn’t shameful. These big problems require moonshot solutions. But we aren’t going for gold because going for gold is hard to test.

Kristen Berman
Behavioral Scientist, Co-founder of Irrational Labs

Increasing our impact also involves looking at the behavioral design process from a system perspective, requiring an additional bold step for many in the field.

Behavioral design solutions have historically succeeded at the individual unit level, with precise “best fit” approaches to behavioral change, but the field sometimes still struggles to translate or scale successful efforts into other contexts. Focusing on the individual unit can also yield solutions that are effective in isolation, but don’t sufficiently question whether the system in which they play is itself equitable.

Embracing systems design probably means accepting more complexity and ambiguity than the field is accustomed to. This may require championing the “design” part of “behavioral design” to a degree that feels uncomfortable… perhaps even being ok with Carveth Read’s assertion that “it is better to be vaguely right than exactly wrong” when first envisioning the new. But by augmenting its current strengths with systems-level “vaguely right” notions about what could be, rather than just with what already is, behavioral systems design may be able to deliver whole new levels of impact.

Ruth Schmidt
Associate Professor of Behavioral Design at Institute of Design in Chicago

Will 2020 mark the decade when behavioral design finds fluid and systematic connection between science and design? Although both the evidence base and the applied side are active branches of behavioral design, they still tend to operate in silos. Integrating science and design will not be easy and likely require nuanced change management and acceptance of ambiguity on behalf of ourselves and our collaborators.

The call to increasingly collaborate between science and design is also a call to turn our gaze inwards and prioritize the wellbeing of said scientists and designers. In the midst of nudging other people and environments for the better, healthier and more ethical, we should not neglect our own environments and behavior. After all, it would be a sad irony if we fail to practice what we preach.

While our focus as behavioural scientists is to change human behaviour (hopefully for the better), I wonder how often do we think of our own behaviour and environment as researchers. A recent study funded by the Wellcome trust took a closer look into research culture and it turns out that more than half of the researchers acknowledged having mental health issues at some point in their career (especially acute topic among graduate students). 75% of the respondents pointed out that creativity as such is suppressed in research culture and that is just the tip of the iceberg. It raises the question that how can we create solutions and conduct research if we don’t feel supported? That is definitely something to address within this decade!

Mariliis Tael-Öeren
Behavioural Scientist at Dovetailed

The search for something that unites us.

A closer integration of science and design will no doubt require cross-functional and multi-disciplinary collaboration, both in academia and industry. Perhaps we can unite under the flagship unit of measurement that science and design professionals all center on, which is that of “behavior”, as so aptly pointed out by our contributor Dustin DiTommaso of Mad*Pow.

Possibly fueled by the buzz behavioral economics has garnered in in a Post-Nudge economy, “behavior” has largely been identified as a meaningful unit of value. “How do we get Person X to do Y in Context Z for Objective 1 to be achieved?” is typically the underlying question. It is now (finally) recognized that systematic methods familiar to behavioral scientists are perhaps the best approach to framing and solving these kinds of challenges. Product and service innovation teams are eager to learn from, collaborate with, and be led by applied scientists who can also “speak design.”

Dustin DiTommaso
SVP Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow

“To be frank, there’s some shady shit going on in our field, and unless we call it out and fix it, we should expect regulation if not outright vilification.”

— Stephen Wendel

In the past ten years, the ethics of certain behavior change techniques, nudging, and dark patterns in design has sparked heated debate in the realms of public policy, the technology industry, and research design, to name just a few. Many big questions persist, including; the ethics of the right and wrong ways of influencing people’s behavior, how we might define “positive behaviors” or “for good”, and the potential regulation or guidlines needed regarding the use of certain behavior change techniques. These are important topics we need to tackle in the new decade.

The last decade has shown us the tremendous power of applied behavioral science to do good: from saving people time to saving their lives. It’s also shown us the downsides. To be frank, there’s some shady shit going on in our field, and unless we call it out and fix it, we should expect regulation if not outright vilification. Behavioral design is being used to trick people into buying our products, and into giving up their personal data. It’s being used to push Gig economy workers into punishing and unsafe schedules, without breaks.

Stephen Wendel
Head of Behavioral Science at Morningstar

3.1 Ethics of use cases

Behavioral design practitioners should take the larger impact and outcomes more seriously and consider the real-life implications of methods and means of changing behavior.

I predict two major focus areas for behavioral design in 2020 and beyond. The first is the need for a code of ethics that takes seriously the consequential outcomes of behavioral design — literally, in some cases, life and death. Activities like programming a recommendation algorithm or designing an event experience are not just intellectual challenges; they’re opportunities to scrutinize how bad actors may misbehave to the detriment of the vulnerable so that we can protect against abuse.

Amy Bucher
VP of Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow

Ultimately, considering the ethical implications of each behavioral design challenge and use case is about generating trust. Trust within our professional community, trust in our field from the public and trust in the tools behavioral design uses from both sides.

My identity is largely defined by the technology and services I use. These facilitators of my identity shape my behaviour; however, it would appear that the technology and services I use are starting to know more about me than I do myself. If I trust in them, can they transition me by small increments to behave like someone who I’m not?

— Imran Ilyas Nazerali
Human-Centred Designer

3.2 Regulation

Behavioral design intersects with several areas of policy, including healthcare, technology, business and research. As such, there is room for discussion on how to regulate behavioral design within and across all the industries and societal functions it touches.

In the US, moves to regulate behavioral work have already started, in the proposed DETOUR Act. Many of the practices regulators are examining have been part of deceptive marketing for a long time: but because these efforts are overlaid with behavioral or psychological research, and because they involve experiments with human subjects, they are gaining increased scrutiny. Similar questions are being raised in the EU. Rather than complain that we’re being unfairly targeted, let’s welcome that scrutiny and meet the challenge.

In the coming decade, I expect that we’ll continue to see the rapid growth of applied behavioral science teams around the world, but that growth will be held back by ethical abuses. There’s a significant risk of political and consumer backlash. We’ll see more efforts to self-regulate in the field, and hopefully, more attention to the behavioral science of ethics: how our environments are designed to promote or undermine, ethical behavior.

Stephen Wendel
Head of Behavioral Science at Morningstar

“I predict that in the next decade we will experience a methodological revolution in behavioral design that will overcome some of the limitations of today’s approaches.”
- Gina Merchant

Behavioral design has at its disposal a rich variety of qualitative and quantitative research techniques. However, as a multi-disciplinary academic field and an evidence-based practice, behavioral design also suffers from the growing pains of methodological quality and as an applied science, small effect sizes. Close collaboration between the sub-disciplines of behavioral design and considerations of methodological issues as a community might help us improve research reliability and increase real-life impact.

One challenge is the use of dollar-store BE [behavioral economics, Ed.]; projects that use a weak research foundation to conduct poorly-designed studies. I have identified the following three core dangers of dollar-store BE: using low-quality research, addressing a single decision barrier, and measuring the wrong outcomes. This risk cheapens our field, at a time when establishing our credibility is so important.

But BE is not doomed. Practitioners can use the following three tactics right away to improve their work. Many of these small changes complement the frameworks we already use. After all, we know that tiny habits, practiced every day, can help us make lasting changes for the better.

1. Evaluate the quality of research with a structured critical appraisal process and by avoiding for retractions, many high-quality failed replications, and predatory journals

2. Layer complementary solutions for more impact by mapping barriers and improving multiple stages of the decision journey

3. Design field studies with maximum realism, test and measure in-context, or ideally, build experiments into your product development and continuous improvement efforts

Natasha Ouslis
Principal Behavioural Scientist at The Jasmar Group

In the age of technology and on the brink of the 4th industrial revolution, a focus on methodological quality is a top priority for the behavioral design community. This also links to the theme of ethical considerations in our field, as AI-powered algorithms and machine learning techniques in research have a high likelihood of being discriminatory. It is up to the community to prepare for and maintain best practices in the methodologies we use.

I think that in the next decade we are going to continue to experience grave, real-world consequences from insufficiently validated AI-algorithms including racism in healthcare delivery, policing, and sexism in hiring practices. I think the obsession with predictive models will continue, as will the misunderstanding that such models are going to have an immediate and expansive impact on clinical care.

Despite these misgivings, I simultaneously predict that in the next decade we will experience a methodological revolution in behavioral design that will overcome some of the limitations of today’s approaches. Although machine learning techniques are valuable in many instances, insufficiently diverse data, lack of interpretability, and misapplication are very real issues that deserve more attention. In addition, machine learning algorithms codify the past, and suffer from group-to-individual threats to generalizability.

Gina Merchant
VP Behavioral Design and Science at One Drop

Methodological quality and efficacy of offerings is set to become a clear differentiator of quality and impact in behavioral design. The output of our work has to translate into real-life impact and value for the people we are looking to serve.

There are many tens of thousands of apps aiming or claiming to improve the health, wealth, and wellbeing for those who use them, yet only the smallest sliver can back up these claims with evidence. Efficacy must become the primary differentiator between offerings and the organizations behind them. People deserve better than what the current landscape offers. A move into regulated space — at least in health and finance — is imminent with support from leading international academics, US congressional and presidential candidates, and alliances such as the Digital Therapeutics Alliance.

Dustin DiTommaso
SVP Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow

4.1 Causality, Personalization, and Customization

Small effect sizes are a common issue in behavioral design research and something our methods are constantly attempting to improve. Mixed-methods are arising to the forefront of the research we conduct as a way to better understand the context of our audiences and thus design more effective interventions.

My hope for the behavioral science of the future is that it will increasingly achieve larger positive effects on individual people’s lives. Some focus areas that I think could help it produce more substantial and beneficial results are:

1. Causality — increasing understanding of the causal influences around a particular behavior being targeted in its specific context. This generally requires using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods such as user interviews, surveys, and data science to deeply understand why some people already engage in the behavior, and others don’t.

2. Stacking — increasing effect sizes by applying many behavior change interventions on top of each other, especially ones targeting different aspects of what could go wrong with a behavior.

3. Customization — less emphasis on one-size-fits-all nudges, and more on the fact that different people will not yet be engaging in a given behavior for different reasons that require different techniques to be used. Customization may involve people actively providing information about their own situation.

Spencer Greenberg
Founder of Spark Wave

The effort to improve effect sizes and better understand causal pathways in specific environments might be aided by the adoption of more longitudinal data, analyzed at the individual level with more within-subject study designs.

The field of behavioral science is experiencing radical transformation in its utilization of intensive longitudinal data, and application of control systems engineering, which enables the optimization of behavioral interventions in real time and at the individual level. For example, using dynamic modeling, one can continuously tune a behavior change intervention, tailoring the delivery of support based on real-time incoming data, and progressively refine and adjust the intervention dose as needed.

Technology that adapts to individuals’ changing needs over time acknowledges the complexity of behavior, and behavior change. When combined with the delivery of evidence-based behavior change content, dynamically-adapting technologies also more closely resemble support provided by an effective health care provider, counselor, or coach — the type of support provided in meaningful face-to-face interactions.

Gina Merchant
VP Behavioral Design and Science at One Drop

“Maybe it’s OK that we’re not shifting the dial on the biggest problems. As Rory Sutherland says, “dare to be trivial”. But we do have more to offer.”
— Jason Collins

How much have the outcomes we really care about changed as a result of behavioural science? Has the efficiency or fairness of the tax system improved since the ‘Nudge Unit’ first inspired work on tax collection around the world? Can we see the effect of communications on total antibiotic use by doctors? With the exception of retirement saving, it is hard to find large aggregate effects on the outcomes we really care about.

Maybe it’s OK that we’re not shifting the dial on the biggest problems. As Rory Sutherland says, “dare to be trivial”. But we do have more to offer.

Rather than increasing on-time tax return submission, could we better design the tax system for humans? What would a behaviourally-informed credit card look like? Could the justice system generate better decisions? How should a doctor interact with AI in developing medical diagnoses?

Jason Collins
Director, Behavioural Economics at PwC Australia

Behavioral design is on a mission to make people’s lives better, whether it be through individual, organizational or societal level of behavior change in the digital or real-world contexts. What we care about is having a positive impact and this is something that needs to be the focus across all behavioral design sub-disciplines.

For the challenges of 2020 and beyond, behavioral designers must demonstrate how people can contribute to collective results and establish core loops to keep them engaged (because these changes will take time!). Whether individual actions are systems-oriented, such as becoming involved in community planning efforts, or personal, like reducing meat consumption at home, behavioral designers can architect change processes that spark people’s optimism and help maintain motivation over time.

Amy Bucher
VP of Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow

5.1 Design for engagement

Integrating research with design will help us better achieve the positive impact we seek to have in the world. Design elements to be focused on even more includes engagement and emotional connection.

Outcomes via digital offerings require at least some degree of usage, although clarity and guidance on how much is enough and how to get it for any given goal is currently non-existent. Hopefully, we will see this change over the next decade, as researchers from behavioral science and human-computer interaction look to define what engagement is — see Perski et al 2016 — and what factors reliably promote and sustain engagement with real-world target behaviors and digital interactions. No grand theories of engagement or near-universally applicable insights exist yet (Self-Determination Theory may still be our best lens).

Dustin DiTommaso
SVP Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow

As we prepare to meet the 4th industrial revolution, increasingly nuanced technology will also provide us with new methods of engaging users, for example, Gamification and technologies like VR and AR.

Going into the new decade is going to be an exciting time for the field of gamification design. As technology and the real-world continue to blend we’ll likely see more and more game elements being integrated into our everyday lives.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will be important technologies to follow. AR will provide new ways in which to nudge people’s behaviour in the real world, while VR will provide exciting ways to educate and train people in realistic, but safe environments.

Sensor technologies already allow us to create gamified experiences that take real-world behaviours as input — like our steps, or household energy use. We’ll likely see more sensor technologies appear that can capture even more data about us, leading to new and interesting gamified applications.

Dr Zac Fitz-Walter
Gamification Designer & Co-founder — Eat More Pixels

5.2 Bottom-up design based on user needs

Engaging and memorable experiences are not easy to design, especially if we add the expectation of subsequent behavior change. Clarifying our focus on a bottom-up, co-design culture and optimizing the use of mixed methods research we can define our field by such rewarding experiences whether in research or application.

Marketing and tech will absorb the tenets of behavioral design faster than ever. Behavioral design won’t be a sacred tool relegated to the companies with the resources to hire specialists who dictate to teams of developers.

Instead, behavioral science will be an increasingly fundamental component of user experience design, accessible to smaller companies through toolsets and plugins. Humanity will continue to dig deeper into digital worlds, but it will be on us to make those experiences positive.

If the last decade was marked by solutions that helped us get on the web at scale, like Squarespace and Wordpress, the next decade will help solopreneurs and SMBs create more meaningful experiences.

We’re already seeing this through personalization and customer segmentation. More companies are taking advantage of these techniques, but the sophistication for implementing these tools is barely beyond reach. This will change in the next decade.

Lauren Proctor
Digital Marketing Strategy Consultant

Some of the methods that could shape the field in the coming decade includes new ways of running experiments, going further into the wild, and looking at norm changes instead of just changes in individuals behavior.

We predict the field will invest in methods that allow us to test bolder interventions that prioritize impact.

1. All university labs will have their own dev/design teams to create websites that replicate real decisions.

2. Applied shops will invest in “living labs”, using passive data tracking software.

3. We’ll study group behaviors in addition to individual behaviors. Norm change will be the next frontier.

4. There will be a peer reviewed journal for just “Applied” studies with industry partners. There will be a spotlight on bigger problems that require bigger solutions.

We will move beyond studying the irrationalities of human nature and will be asked to solve the problems of our future.

Kristen Berman
Behavioral Scientist, Co-founder of Irrational Labs

Specific research and design elements to create engaging and memorable experiences include having a better understanding of the context of behavior, personality metrics of individuals who use our outputs, and situations they might find themselves in.

The replication crisis in social science is an opportunity to dig deeper into what — other than poor scientific methods — explains why certain results do not apply generally:

Culture: aside from regional (eg Western/non-Western) and national cultural differences, we will learn how ethnic (eg white/non-white), social (eg white collar/blue collar), ideological (eg conservative/progressive), and group (eg the Scouts, public-sector workers, company culture) etc. characteristics affect our choices and actions.

Personality: we will learn how it predicts behaviour and how susceptibility to biases correlates with Big-5 personality factors.

Situation: we know lab findings do not necessarily translate to the field, but we will learn why similar interventions related to washing up detergent, tinned soup, or wine have a different effect on consumer behaviour in a corner shop, a large supermarket, or in online purchases.

Koen Smets
Organization Development Adviser

Refining our methods can certainly take us closer to achieving greater positive impact in the world. Still, wanting to create greater impact is one thing, creating it is quite another. Maybe we would be wise to also bring some humility going into the decade ahead.

We will need humility when we approach problems such as these. We are only one discipline that could add value. There will be complexity, feedback and changes in equilibrium. Areas such as education are littered with massive programs that have failed to shift the dial. It will be one thing to turn our attention to bigger problems, but quite another to solve them.

Jason Collins
Director, Behavioural Economics at PwC Australia

“It’s time to broaden our view” — Nick Hobson

The 2020s will be about consilience. Where academia has failed to create a truly interdisciplinary approach to understanding human behavior, applied behavioral insights will take up the torch. Don’t get me wrong, we needed nudging for the initial buy-in and proof of concept. But now that we have that, it’s time to broaden our view.

Nick Hobson
Chief Behavioral Officer, The Behaviorist

To come together as a field of expertise, we must embark on this new decade as a multi- and interdisciplinary cohesive community and body of knowledge. Only then can we truly realize the potential of behavioral design and its sub-disciplines.

As marketers, technologists, and behavioral scientists, the power to create change is in our hands. It’s our responsibility to collaborate so that we help people create meaning and build a better future.

Lauren Proctor
Digital Marketing Strategy Consultant

A call for consilience of our sub-disciplines is all very well, but to move to the next level of collaboration, we must provide strategic leadership in this direction. Behavioral design is intricately wrapped up in the wellbeing and self-awareness of the professionals delivering these solutions, i.e. members of our own community. As we endeavour to make the world a better place, we must make sure we concurrently design management and leadership practices to support the employees and organizational infrastructure upon which the betterment of the world depends.

But what about our own organizations? Our employees are human beings too, subject to the same psychological forces that influence behavior and decision-making. Are we applying behavioral theory and practices to leadership? My prediction for 2020 and beyond is that we will see a rise in managers mining the psychology of motivation, and the tools of experimentation, to unleash the potential of their workforce.

Traditional management practices lead managers to treat workforce motivation as an overly simple “do this, get that” relationship between effort and reward. But insight from behavioral economics and social psychology reveals that the psychology of motivation is more complex than that. Cash is not always king. More is not always better. And when put to the test in real world field experiments, even the most tried-and-true behavioral principles can have unintended consequences, with bottom-line implications for motivation and incentive design.

Charlotte Blank
Chief Behavioral Officer, Maritz

To start tackling some of the issues and growth edges of our field mentioned by our contributors in this report, we can recommend the following to individuals and organizations working to further behavioral design practice:

  1. Consider and discuss ethical issues with colleagues, clients, and local governments to further the potential future and already emerging regulatory culture for behavioral design.
  2. Integrate inter- and multi-disciplinary expertise as often as possible to improve the impact and quality of your behavioral design work.
  3. Don’t expect to be able to create one-size-fits-all solutions. Embrace the diversity and complexity of human behavior and consider how you can provide users with more control and autonomy.
  4. Aim to be gradual and relentless rather than looking for quick-fixes. Anything worthwhile takes time, and this is especially true for promoting sustained behavior change.
  5. Be bold and don’t be afraid to go for gold. What is your moonshot solution to test?
  6. Consider a wide range of terminology when introducing your work to new audiences; they might know your expertise under a different name than you usually use. Look at the “A note on terminology” section in this post for some ideas.
  7. Adopt a system design perspective when advocating and promoting behavioral design solutions and methods to have an impact on the larger-scale global issues.
  8. Consider co-designing solutions with users to ensure impact in real-world settings.
  9. Be creative in your research and continuously look for ways in which you can run more in-context studies and experiments.
  10. Explore new technological tools like dynamic modeling to test and iterate behavioral design solutions, allowing adaptation to individuals’ changing needs over time.

Behavioral design has emerged from its childhood and adolescent years into an ever-maturing identity in the new decade. It is an exciting time to be a part of the field and we look towards the future with great optimism. However, to realize the potential of the behavioral design field much work is still to be done. We must better define this field and attempt to further connect all its sub-disciplines. We should be bold in our quest to design behavioral solutions with lasting and positive impact on people’s lives. Still, we can’t assume that the end justifies the means and we must better ensure that our methods are used ethically.

We hope that this collection has provided you with valuable food for thought and perhaps new perspectives on the field. We encourage that you see the full-length contributions via the report (download here) to dive further into these fascinating topics covered. More than anything we hope to see your presence in this growing behavioral design community and to get your help in improving it for the better. The only way forward is through consistent collaboration and communication with each other to ensure these positive developmental trajectories are realized. Onward and upwards.

Share and add to the discussion!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on where the field is headed and what you thought about what was covered in this report. Please share your thoughts with the hashtag #behavioraldesignfuture to add to the discussion on social media!


Samuel is a leading behavioral strategist and habit expert, having worked with organizations across Europe, Australia, and North America. Among other things, he’s one of the world’s first Chief Behavioral Officer’s in digital health, and he specializes in applying insights from behavioral science and behavioral economics to build user-centered and habit-forming products and services. Samuel is also a frequent keynote speaker, curator of the popular newsletter Habit Weekly, and has co-authored “Nudging in practice — Helping organizations make it easy to do the right thing.” The book offers a comprehensive guide to organizations interested in understanding and systematically utilizing behavioral insights.

Silja is an applied behavioral scientist who helps organizations create human-centered client experiences using qualitative and quantitative research methods and executive coaching. Silja holds a Behavioral Science Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and has worked with industry and governmental organizations across Europe, the US and Southeast Asia. Silja uses an embodied approach to behavior change and advocates for the interdisciplinary use of therapeutic, movement-based and cognitive strategies to achieve sustainable change in behavior patterns. She also facilitates an online community of behavioral design professionals Behavioral Design Global seeking to integrate the research and application of behavioral insights globally.


We (the editors) would like to extend our deepest gratitude to all the wonderful contributors who made this piece possible. It is honestly hard to find a better representation of the field than this and we encourage you to learn more about their work below.

Kristen Berman co-founded Irrational Labs, a behavioral product design company, with Dan Ariely in 2013. Irrational Labs helps companies and nonprofits understand and leverage behavioral economics to increase the health, wealth and happiness of their users. She also co-founded Common Cents Lab, a Duke University initiative dedicated to improving the financial well-being for low to middle Americans and was on founding team of Google’s behavioral economics team. Irrational labs is now accepting applications for their 2020 bootcamp.

Jason Collins leads PwC Australia’s behavioral economics practice. Previously, he was data science lead with Australia’s corporate, markets, and financial services regulator. He has a Ph.D. in economics and evolutionary biology, and blogs at

Dr. Gina Merchant is a behavioral scientist specializing in health technology. She translates science into products and services that support behavior change. Her expertise is in digital engagement & how our social environments influence our health behaviors, beliefs, and decision making. Her work is at the intersection of psychology, public health, and data science. She holds a doctorate in Public Health, with a specialization in Health Behavior, and a masters in Experimental Psychology.

Aline Holzwarth is an applied behavioral scientist, specializing in digital health research and scientifically informed product design. She is Head of Behavioral Science at Pattern Health, a digital health platform, co-founded the Behavior Shop, a behavioral science advisory company, and holds an appointment as Principal of the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University, an applied behavioral science lab that helps people be happier, healthier and wealthier, at home and abroad.

Spencer is an entrepreneur and mathematician. He’s the founder of Spark Wave, a startup foundry which creates novel software products from scratch, designed to help solve problems in the world using behavioral science (e.g. scalable care for depression and anxiety, technology for accelerating and improving social science research).

Koen is an accidental behavioural economist, who has been applying insights from economics and behavioural science in his work as an organization development and organizational change practitioner for nearly 15 years. He co-founded The BEE, a company that helps organizations harness the entrepreneurial potential of their people, is a special adviser Organizational Transformation for the BVA Nudge Unit, and an adjunct assistant professor at Saint Louis University.

Ruth Schmidt is an associate professor at the Institute of Design (ID) at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology whose work sits at the intersection of behavioral economics, systems, and humanity-centered design. For a running archive of her work, check out her website and occasional tweets as @ruthkschmidt.

Mariliis is a behavioural scientist who for the past decade has been involved in health behaviour related policy shaping in Estonia. She currently works as a Behavioural Scientist at a UX design and research studio Dovetailed in Cambridge and is also involved with the evaluation of a mental health app Wakey!

Amy Bucher, Ph.D. is VP of Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow, a purpose-driven strategic design agency in Boston, MA, USA. Amy focuses on crafting engaging and motivating experiences that help people change behaviors that contribute to physical, mental, and financial health and well-being. She’s a frequent speaker at behavior change and UX conferences where she talks about motivation, engagement, and product design. Amy is the author of Engaged: Designing for Behavior Change.

Receiving one of the world’s first PhDs in gamification design, Dr Zac Fitz-Walter has been researching, educating and practicing gamification design for over a decade now. He speaks and educates governments and companies around the world on effective gamification, motivation and engagement design. His mission in life is to encourage us all to play more. If you want to level up you gamification game, you can visit his website:

Dr. Wendel is the Head of Behavioral Science at Morningstar, where his team conducts original research to help investors overcome common behavioral obstacles. He is the author of three books on applied behavioral science and product design. The second edition of his book, Designing for Behavior Change, will be published this June. To learn more, see

Nick is Founder and Chief Behavioral Officer of The Behaviorist. As a practicing applied behavioral and brain scientist and adjunct faculty member of various University institutions, he is on a mission to build bridges between academia and industry in order to better understand human behavior. Armed with the tools of science, he consult people-minded organizations on how to create and maintain meaning, purpose, and culture for its employees and customers.

Charlotte Blank is chief behavioral officer of Maritz, a world-leading provider of global events, motivation and loyalty programs. As head of the firm’s behavioral science and field research practice, Charlotte forges the connection between academic theory and business application. Ever-curious about what “makes us work,” Charlotte is a frequent contributor to

Imran Nazerali is a London based designer who cares about people. With a BA in Product Design and MA/MSc in Global Innovation Design, Imran explores how people can connect with one another in a day and age where connection has lost its meaning. He strongly believes in a multidisciplinary and human-centred design approach to making positive change for humanity in the 21st Century. Showcasing his work across Asia in Beijing, Singapore and Bhubaneshwar, Imran is passionate about cultivating more cultural experiences around the globe and expanding his creative capabilities

Natasha is a behavior change consultant, researcher, and speaker on a mission to design better workplaces. She is the Principal Behavioural Scientist at The Jasmar Group and a PhD Candidate at Western University in Canada.

David Perrott is an independent consultant based out of Cape Town, South Africa. He has worked with behavioural insights and techniques for the past six years, applying it to private sector companies, startups, local governments and social impact organisations. The majority of David’s work has been in South Africa, but he has also worked with clients in India, Ghana and the UK.

Dustin is Senior Vice President of Behavior Change Design at Mad*Pow. A designer and researcher, Dustin’s work involves the study and application of behavioral and decision science, motivational psychology, and human-computer interaction to the design of technology-assisted behavior change interventions, products, and services. His client portfolio includes partnerships with a range of innovative start-ups, non-profits, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies across domains; including healthcare, financial services, education, and social impact.

Lauren Proctor is a Marketing Innovation Strategist and entrepreneur who helps companies implement emerging technologies to increase attention and revenues. Proctor has had the pleasure of working with numerous brands in finance, fashion, and luxury and co-founded an influencer marketing platform that was acquired by Twitter. To learn how you can leverage new technology to create groundbreaking change for your company or practice, sign up for her free insights report at

Monica has been an author, speaker, designer, CEO, activist, investigator, clown, opera singer and, most recently, founder of HATCH, a human analytics and change consultancy that specialises in the future of work. Her specialism of more than a decade has been navigating and communicating organisational change. She has been quoted for a number of publications including The Economist, Forbes, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, and is a workplace authority for CNN, BBC Radio and BBC Worldwide.



Samuel Salzer
Behavioral Design Hub

Behavioral designer, author and keynote speaker. Helping organizations create habit forming products. Curator for the popular newsletter