3 ways that Class Pass uses behavioral science to help us work out more

Kristen Berman
Apr 9, 2018 · 4 min read

(or: how to manipulate people for good)

#1 Their pricing encourages usage

The economically best option for people who like to work out is to get a gym membership. Gym memberships allow people to go to the gym whenever they want and as many times as they want. Solving for access, Class Pass will always be a worse deal. Class Pass gives you a certain amount of credits per month. If you don’t use them, you lose them. The middle option is just 3–5 visits a month.

However, that is the genius of Class Pass.

By giving members a target (40 credits) and a deadline to use them (a month), the member is forced to think about when and how they will use their credits. While possible, it would be painful to wait and use them all in the last couple days of the month. Instead, one must plan ahead, perhaps do a class every week. People who work in game design also use this trick. They help players plan ahead within the game construct and have found it to be a successful way to encourage repeat usage. In many popular games you can’t continue playing for some certain period of time. For example, they tell you to wait an hour until you can water your garden again. If you don’t water your garden the plants will die. By giving the user a plan (come back in an hour) and a deadline (when the plants die) usage increases.

Class Pass piles it on further. Once you miss a week, you feel motivated to catch up and avoid losing your credits at the end of the month. This ‘use it or lose it’ rule creates a strong aversion to waste that motivates you throughout the month. You know you will waste your credits if you don’t use them soon.

Relative to the all-you-can-eat gym membership model, Class Pass forces people to think about how they will use the service each month. The pricing model encourages usage.

#2 You enter a Ulysses contract every time you reserve a class

A ulysses contract is a freely made decision that works to bind oneself in the future. Advanced directives are the ultimate ulysses contract — you make one when you are healthy and bind yourself to your end-of-life decisions. It’s very difficult to get out of it at the point you get sick and need to use it.

With Class Pass you reserve a class for the future. For example, it’s Monday and I can reserve a class for Wednesday night. When Wednesday night comes and I bail, I’ll be charged a cancelation fee for not showing up.

This fee ends up serving two purposes:

  • It helps people pre-plan. If you know there is a penalty for canceling, it may be worth double checking the calendar to ensure you will attend prior to booking the class.
  • It gets people to sign up for classes in a cold state. When you sign up for a class, you’re making decisions on behalf of your future self and not today’s self. You’re always a better person in the future. You’re someone who workouts at 6am. Planning for the future self could be problematic if the system didn’t lock you into your intention. But because there is a fee, you’re less tempted to sleep in when the time comes for that aggressively early class. Or at minimum when Wednesday night arrives and my friend calls me for drinks, I’ll have an excuse. I’m already locked into my Class Pass commitment and don’t want to pay the fee to back out.

#3 They help you follow through on your intentions

Class Pass doesn’t put the burden on you to remember when your class is. They work hard to ensure you’ll meet your commitment, get in a sweat and avoid that fee. Prior to the class they send push reminders and emails. They even do the ultimate behavioral intervention — they help you put it on your calendar.

And, when you don’t have a class coming up, they recommend ones you’ve already done before.

Class Pass also makes it easy to go with friends. While that’s obviously going to be fun, your friends also serve as a commitment device and lock you in to attend. You definitely don’t want to back out on a friend you’ve committed to meet for a 6am class. That’s much worse than the fee!

Class Pass is the best app I have seen in a while that encodes behavioral principles in the core of its product and design.

Hacking Behavior

Kristen Berman

Written by

Thinking about Irrationality. Behavioral Scientist. Co-founder of Irrational Labs and Common Cents Lab.

Hacking Behavior


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