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The Psychology of Designing User Habits

Video Summary

What makes some products so engaging while others flop? Nir Eyal explains the psychology behind the world's most habit-forming technologies and provides practical advice for increasing user engagement.


Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. The M.I.T. Technology Review dubbed Nir, “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology.”

Nir founded two tech companies since 2003 and has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. He is the author of the bestselling book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

In addition to blogging at NirAndFar.com, Nir’s writing has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, TechCrunch, and Psychology Today.

Nir is also an active investor in habit-forming technologies. Some of his past investments include: Eventbrite, Product Hunt, Pantry, Marco Polo, Presence Learning, 7 Cups, Pana, Symphony Commerce, Worklife (acquired by Cisco) and Refresh.io (acquired by LinkedIn).

Nir attended The Stanford Graduate School of Business and Emory University.

What you will learn?

  • Understand how to develop habit-forming products
  • Know what role human behavior and the human brain plays in making products habit-forming
  • Create the right triggers to make your product a regular part of users’ routines and habits
  • Give the right rewards to satiate users’ needs

Well, welcome everyone. It is a pleasure to be here. How’s everybody feeling? Are we refreshed after lunch? Good lunch? Good day so far? Who’s enjoying the day? Oh, excellent. Good. Good. Good to hear.
I’m here to tell you that growth doesn’t matter. What? Growth doesn’t matter. Growth doesn’t matter without retention. What do we call a business that has amazing growth but no retention? That business. Googled it. (Audience laughs) Yeah, they’re doin’ actually really well. A business that has amazing growth and no retention is called a leaky bucket. And that’s the worst of all possible worlds. It’s worse than failing at growth in the first place is succeeding at growth but failing at keeping people coming back. So the secret to sustained growth must be sustained engagement.
So today we’re going to talk about how to build habits into our products. How can we build the sort of products that people come back to time and time again?
Now, we all know that the products we carry around with on our, in our pockets today have a profound impact on our day-to-day lives. And so if we want to figure out how do we truly master engagement, how do we do it at a world class level, what I would suggest we do is to look at the best in the business, right? If you wanted to be an amazing swimmer, you might give Michael Phelps a call, right? If you wanted to be a very fast runner, maybe you figure out the techniques of Hussein Bolt to figure out what he’s doing right.
And so what we want to do in our industry to figure out how to master user engagement and retention. What I suggest we do is to look at the best in the business. So look at these companies who all started out as toys. Think about this. These companies came out of nowhere and in the span of five to ten years, these world-changing companies are touching the lives of hundreds of millions, if not billions of users and they are making hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars. Who am I talking about? These companies that everybody dismissed at first. Who are these players? They’re companies like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and WhatsApp and Slack and Snapchat. Not just in the consumer web space, I know how many of you here are in the enterprise space as well. Doesn’t matter if you’re enterprise or consumer, the same rules apply.
What I’m going to show you today is the patterns that are endemic to every single one of these products. There is a definable pattern that keeps users coming back habitually with little or no conscious thoughts. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Now, I only have about 25 or I’m sorry, 30 minutes or so. We want to take some Q&A as well. I don’t have all that much time. There’s a lot more information in this book ‘Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products’. I think right now, it’s selling for like 12 bucks on Amazon. If you don’t have 12 bucks, let me know. I can tell you where you can go pirate it on the web. No problem. I just want you to read the book so you can get more the examples that I’m not gonna be able to share today. There’s a lot more content in the book and I wrote it for entrepreneurs. I wrote it for people who are short on time. But you know, it’s guided through these exercises to help you build a habit forming product. But today I want to give you kind of a 30,000 foot overview of the methodology that these companies use, which I also described in the book.

So let’s start with the definition when we talk about habits. What are we talking about? A habit is an impulse to do a behavior with little or no conscious thought. It’s about half of what you do every single day is done purely out of habit. These behaviors done with little or no conscious thought. Now, I believe that we can use these habits for good. And I’m not alone. Because today there’s an explosion of companies all over the world now who are using the psychology of designing habits to help people live happier, healthier, more connected, more productive lives, and that’s what I want to help you do today.
So what we find is endemic to these habit-forming products is called a hook. A hook is an experience designed to connect the users’ problem to your product with enough frequency to form a habit. Again, connecting your users’ problem to your product with enough frequency to form a habit. That’s the definition of a hook. Now these hooks have four parts. Okay, four basic parts, and that’s what’s on those laptop stickers. Every hook has a trigger, an action, a reward and an investment. Okay? Trigger, action, reward and investment. I’m going to walk you through these four basic steps in my presentation here.

So the first step of every hook is the trigger phase. The trigger is what tells us what to do next. And the first type of trigger is called an external trigger. These are things that tell the user what to do next with some piece of information inside the trigger. Okay? Click here. Buy now. Play this. A friend through word-of-mouth telling you about a great new app. All these are external triggers. You know all about external triggers. This is what we in the growth community do everyday is design these triggers. You know all about this. But what I find people don’t think about enough and what turns out to be absolutely critical to forming these long-term habits is creating an association with what’s called an internal trigger.
An internal trigger tells the user what to do next but the information for what to do is stored as a memory or an association inside the user’s brain. So what we do when we’re in a particular place, a certain routine, around certain people in certain situations and most frequently when we experience certain emotions tells us what to do next, prompts us to action to use these devices with little or no conscious thought.
Now the most frequently occurring internal triggers are these emotions but not just any emotion. They are specifically negative emotions. Negative emotions. So what will you do when you’re feeling bored or lonesome or lost or indecisive or fatigued or discouraged? What you do when you experience these negative emotions prompt you to action. You are looking for relief. Listen folks. There is only one reason and one reason alone that people use your product. There’s only one reason why people use any product or service and that one reason is to modulate our mood. To make us feel something different. To satisfy this pain point from an emotional state. And if you can’t name that emotional state, you cannot build a product or service to be habit-forming in such a way that solves this problem for the user.
Now some of the research that shows us that this is the case how powerful these internal triggers are came to us from a study that found that people suffering from depression check email more. I just saw like three people put away their phones. What’s going on? Why do people suffering from depression check email more?
Well, it turns out that people suffering from depression experience what psychologists call negative valence states. They feel down more frequently than the rest of the population. What are they doing to boost their mood to get out of that negative valence state? They’re checking their devices. They’re going online. They’re looking at email more often than the rest of the population. And if we’re honest with ourselves folks, we all do this. We all do this.
Where do we go when we’re feeling lonely? What app or website do we check? We check Facebook, right? Somebody usually says Tinder, also true. Where do we go when we’re feeling unsure about something, when we don’t know what the answer is something before we scan our brains to see if we might know the answer. We’re automatically Googling. And what about when we’re feeling bored between two and four o’clock in the afternoon, you have that big project you don’t feel like working on. Where do you go? Well, you check YouTube. You check stock prices. You look at the news. You check sports scores. All of these products and services cater to this internal trigger of boredom. We don’t like that sensation and we seek these products or services with little or no conscious thought before we even are cognizant of why we are going on to these services.
So fundamentally what this means is that if you are building a habit forming product or service, if you want people to come back to your product or service with little or no conscious thought, without relying on expensive advertising or spammy messaging, you want people to go to your product or service just the way they would to Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Slack or Whatsapp. You have got to be able to tell me, what is your internal trigger?
Okay, let’s do a quick case study here. Instagram. How many of you are Instagram users? A lot of you. Terrific! Feel free to Instagram away at this. Let’s take a look at what made Instagram such a habit forming product.
How did you first find out about Instagram? Where did you first hear about it? Where’d you first hear about it? From your friends, from Twitter, on Facebook? And when people posted on those platforms, it came with a big external trigger. The external trigger said hey, check out my photo on Instagram. Terrific. You click the link, you install the app, now you have external triggers on your phone home screen, right? Those are examples of external triggers. And you get notifications from your friends every time something happens on the platform. More examples of external triggers.
What about the internal triggers? Who, did you say use Instagram a lot? No? Who uses Instagram here? You do? What’s your name? Isabella. Do you remember the last thing you took a picture of with Instagram? If it’s suitable for work? Your dog. Perfect example. Okay. So Isabella takes a picture of her dog. Now, I’m guessing that your dog didn’t look up at you and said take a picture of me with Instagram, right? Your dog didn’t tell you that and yet there was an association that when she saw something in her life that she wanted to capture, that she wanted to hold onto, there was this pang of pain that she might lose the moment. This fear that the moment might be lost was satiated. The salve for that pain point was Instagram. Instagram wins.
Now what company, think 20, 30 years ago, what other company used to own the moment when it came to the photography space? Kodak. Do you remember the Kodak moment? Remember all these commercials that used to run on television of the puppy dogs running through the grass, the children who would someday leave the empty nest? My personal favorite commercial was the one that had of Grandma blowing out her last birthday candles. Remember that commercial, right? Why did it, why did Kodak spend billions of dollars in advertising and almost a hundred years teaching people about the Kodak moment? Because they wanted to create a mental association that when you see a moment like this in your life, capture it with a Kodak camera before it disappears forever.
Now what took Kodak a hundred years and billions of dollars, Instagram did with 12 people in 18 months by having us users teach other users what the Instagram camera was for right? Because the more we use a product like Instagram, the more we begin to associate it with other internal triggers. When we’re feeling bored or lonesome or fomo. What’s fomo? Fear of missing out. You know, that’s actually a real word in the dictionary as of a few years ago? Fomo feels bad. We don’t like that sensation that we might be missing out on something and before we’re even cognizant of what we’re feeling or why, we’re instantly taking out our phone and checking our devices looking at Instagram.
Okay, so the key here, the lesson is, you’ve got to be able to articulate what is your internal trigger. What’s the itch that you want to scratch for your users with sufficient frequency to build a habit around?

Okay, the next step of the hook is the action phase. The action phase is defined as the simplest behavior in anticipation of a reward. You may want to write that down. The simplest thing that user can do to scratch that itch. Now I’m going to show you a few examples of some habit-forming products and take a look at how simple this action is. Something as simple as scrolling on Pinterest or a quick search on Google or what could be easier than simply pushing the play button on YouTube? These incredibly simple tiny behaviors done in anticipation of an immediate reward.
And there’s actually a formula to help us predict the likelihood of these singular behaviors. How many people have seen this formula? Oh very few of you. Terrific. This is a very powerful formula. Comes to us from a researcher at Stanford by the name of BJ Fogg.
Fogg tells us that for any human behavior, any human behavior, we need three things. The ‘b’ stands for behavior equals motivation, ability, ability is how easy or difficult something is to do and the trigger must be present. We just talked about triggers. So think about this. For any human behavior, we always need motivation, ability and a trigger every single time.
Let’s dive into these. We already talked about triggers, but let’s talk about motivation and ability. Motivation according to Edward Deci who’s the father of self-determination theory who we see here. Deci tells us that motivation is the energy for action, how much we want to do a particular behavior.
Now one industry that specializes in manipulating user motivations, of course, the ad industry. So every bit of ad copy you’ve ever seen, billboard, commercial, website text, fundamentally must motivate one or more of these six levers of motivation because all of us as human beings, we seek pleasure or avoid pain. We seek hope or avoid fear. We seek social acceptance or we avoid social rejection. That’s how we boost motivation simple as that. It’s only these six things.
Now that’s motivation. Let’s talk about the second part of b equals m + a + t. The ‘a’ stands for ability and ability is defined as the capacity to do a particular behavior. How easy or difficult something is to do. And here again, we have these six key levers that we can pull on to make someone more likely to do something by changing how much time something takes. How much money something costs. How much physical effort is required. Brain cycles. This is a big one when it comes to technology products because the harder something is to understand, the less likely that behavior is to occur.
Social deviant says it would become more likely to do something when we see other people like us doing it, and finally non-routine says that we’d become more likely to do something simply for the fact that we have done it before in the past. And this is why habits are so important. Because the more we do something, the easier it becomes and the more likely we are to do it in the future. What do we call that? What’s that called? It’s called practice, right? The more we do it the easier it gets, the more likely we are to do in the future.
So Fogg puts together these three fundamental elements of motivation, ability and triggers on this graph that we can use in our businesses. If a user is not doing a behavior, any behavior if their action is not happening, you’ve designed a beautiful new website or an unbelievable new app, but dammit the user isn’t doing the thing you want them to do, there are only three reasons. Either the user lacks motivation, high motivation, low motivation, the user lacks ability, low ability. Something is hard to do. It’s over here. If something is easy to do, it’s over there. Or they lack a clear trigger. It’s only one of those three things. Okay.
Let’s make this concrete. I want to give you guys an example. I want to ask you, think of the last time that a telephone rang, telephone rings in your life, and you did not pick up the phone. Why didn’t you pick up the phone? Give me a reason. What’s a reason? You’re busy. Maybe you’re listening to me talk right now. It would be difficult to pick up the call. If somebody’s phone rang right this second, you have to go in between the aisles. You don’t want to be that one person that I can see that’s going to walk out of my talk. It’s hard to do. You lack ability, right? You’re way over there on the ability curve. So you’re in that red zone even if your motivation is very very high.
What’s another reason why you may not pick up the call? You’re trying to avoid the person maybe it’s your mother-in-law or it’s a telemarketer, somebody you don’t want to talk to even if it’s very easy to pick up the call. You heard the phone ring. If you lack motivation, even if the phone is easy to pick up and you have tons of ability, you don’t cross that red threshold because the behavior, because you’re not motivated enough to do the behavior.
What’s one more reason that has to do with a trigger why you don’t pick up the phone? Exactly. The phone was on silent. This happens to me all the time. I really wanted to pick up the call, high motivation, high ability, right? The phone was right there next to me, but I never heard it ring. No trigger was present.
So for every single human behavior, every click, every action, every behavior you want the reader, user to do, if they are not doing that behavior, it’s only one of these three things. They lack motivation, they lack ability, or they lack a clear trigger. Every single time.

Okay, the next step of the hook is the reward phase. The reward is where we give people what they came for, where we scratch the itch. Now when we talk about rewards, we have to talk about the brain. And in particular, the area of the brain that we call the nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens was first studied back in the 1940s by two Canadian researchers by the name of Olds and Milner, and Olds and Milner discovered something very interesting about this part of the brain. What they did in their experiments, they connected lab animals, brains, to an electrode. And they connected this electrode to a little lever that the animals could push on to send electrical current to their nucleus accumbens. And what they discovered was that these lab animals pressed on these levers incessantly. They would forego food and water. They would run across painful electrified grids just to continue to activate this part of the brain again, and again and again. In later experiments done on people, they observed similar results. That when people were given a little button to press on that stimulated this part of the brain, they would click on it hundreds of times. Some of the people in the studies had to have the machines forcibly removed from them to get them to stop activating this part of the brain.
Now, it turns out we don’t need electrodes and people’s brains to get them to push these buttons because your nucleus accumbens is activated every single day with things like junk food, luxury goods, sex, certain chemicals, and of course, right there in the center, our technology. All of these things stimulate the very same part of the brain, the nucleus accumbens.
Now for decades, Olds and Milner and much of the psychology community believed that the purpose of the nucleus accumbens was to stimulate pleasure. Right? Why else would people I’m sorry, why else would lab animals and later people incessantly press on these buttons if it wasn’t because they felt good, right? Not exactly. Turns out that’s not how the brain really gets us to act. How the brain really gets us to act is by stimulating what we call the stress of desire. This wanting, this craving reflex, because what we now know that Olds and Milner never did was that the nucleus accumbens that you can see here in orange, becomes most active in anticipation of the reward. But when we actually get the thing we want, the thing that’s finally going to make us happy, and we’re finally going to feel good, that’s when the nucleus accumbens becomes less active.
So the way the, oops, less active. As you can see there. So the way the brain gets us to act is not by stimulating pleasure per se, it’s by stimulating this itch that we seek to scratch. This anticipatory response. And it turns out that there is a way to supercharge this response.
Did you know that there is a way that I can teach you how to literally manufacture desire? Does anybody want to know how to manufacture desire? Anybody curious? I’m doing it to you right now. So when I ask you a question and I stop talking for a second, some of you perked up. Why did you stop talking? What’s going on? Why did he change his cadence? What’s he going to say next? And it turns out that bit of uncertainty, that bit of mystery, that bit of variability, causes us to engage, it causes us to focus, and it is highly habit-forming. This of course comes from the classic work of BF Skinner the father of operant conditioning. He took these pigeons, he put them in a little box. He gave them a disc to peck at. And every time they pecked at the disk, they would get a little reward, a little food pellet. So basically, Skinner could train these pigeons to peck at the disc whenever they were hungry. Terrific.
But then Skinner did something different. He actually started to run out of these little food pellets. His rewards. So he couldn’t give them every time, he could only give them once in a while. And what Skinner observed was that when he gave these food pellets on an intermittent schedule, so he only gave them once in a while. The rate of response a number of times at these pigeons pecked at the disc increased when the reward was given on a variable schedule of reinforcement. Why does that happen? Because variability spikes activity in the nucleus accumbens creating this desirous response. And so in all sorts of products, enterprise, consumer web, offline, online, every product that you can imagine that sucks you in that keeps you engaged, that you find hard to look away from, you will always find one or more of these three types of variable rewards. Rewards of the tribe, rewards of the hunt, and rewards of the self.
Let me introduce these to you briefly. Rewards of the tribe are all about the search for social rewards. Things that feel good that have this element of variability and come from other people. This is all about the search for empathetic joy, cooperation, competition, partnerships, all examples of things that feel good have this element of mystery and come from other people.
Best example online is social media right? Where when you go on your Facebook profile, when you open up the Facebook app, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to see, what videos that people post, what are the comments going to say, how many likes do something get. Lots of variability using a social media site.It’s also in the enterprise as well. When you think about what keeps us engaged with a product like Slack or Stack Overflow, same exact rewards of the tribe.
The next type of variable reward is rewards of the hunt. Rewards of the hunt have to do with our primal search for food and other material possessions and in modern society, we buy these things with money. So when people think of variable rewards, they often think of gambling. They think about slot machines where the variable reward is what you might win when you play one of these games of chance. But the same exact psychology is at work online. Consider the feed. Ever noticed how so many products today have this feed? Why does everything on our mobile phone have a feed? Why is that? Let’s take a look at LinkedIn, recently acquired by Microsoft for what was it, twenty nine billion dollars? What is it about the LinkedIn feed? And you can substitute any number of different products here. Well, the first story is not that interesting, the second story’s not that interesting, maybe the third or fourth story is interesting. And what do you have to do to get more of those rewards? What you have to do? Just scroll and that act of scrolling and scrolling and searching for that next interesting bit of content use the exact same psychology as pulling on a slot machine. Both variable rewards of the hunt. Searching and searching for that next interesting bit of content.
The next variable reward is called the rewards of the self. Rewards of the self are things that feel good that have this element of variability, but don’t come from other people and on about this information or material rewards. These are things that feel good in and of themselves, they’re intrinsically pleasurable. The search for mastery, consistency, competency and control. Best example online is gameplay. When people play Angry Birds or Candy Crush or League of Legends, any of these games are not necessarily playing with other people, they’re not necessarily even winning anything in terms of material possessions, but there’s something fun and exciting about getting to the next level, the next accomplishment, the next achievement. And I know everybody here is a very serious business people. None of us actually play these games, do we? Probably don’t. But even if you don’t, I bet you if you’re anything like me, you play this game every day. This look familiar? Your email inbox? The mother of habit-forming technologies? That one message that you have to open to clear it away, that unread message or the to-dos in your to-do list that you check off or the thing that always gets me is that one app notification I just have to open so I don’t have to see that notification anymore. All examples of these variable rewards of the self. The search for mastery, consistency, competency and control. Checking something off of off a list, getting to the next level, the next accomplishment.
Okay, so one word of warning. Before you say to yourself, terrific, I got it, variable rewards. I’m going to put variable rewards and all my products and make them super habit-forming. The one bit of warning is that variable rewards are not a free pass. Okay, we all heard about gamification over the past few years. Everybody knows about gamification, right? Using game like mechanics and in non-gaming environments, points, badges, leaderboards? I’m not against gamification. I’m against the inappropriate use of gamification. What people tend to do with gamification is to make it into what’s called chocolate-covered broccoli. You take something gross, you put something delicious on it and you end up with something that’s really disgusting. Right? And the reason the chocolate-covered broccoli is disgusting is because it doesn’t actually satisfy the user and that’s what gamification many times tends to do. Because fundamentally, whether you use gamification techniques or not, the variable reward has to scratch the customer’s itch. If the customers itch is loneliness, seeking connection, well, then the variable reward has to connect people together. Right? But it’s a very if the internal trigger is boredom let’s say, well then the variable reward must entertain. There has to be a connection between the internal trigger and the variable reward. Because the point of the variable reward is to give people what they came for, to solve their problem, to scratch their itch but leave a bit of mystery around what they might find the next time they engage with the product.

Which finally brings me to the last step of the hook, the investment phase. The investment phase is probably the most overlooked of the four steps of the hook and where there is the most opportunities for the companies that will build the technologies of tomorrow.
The investment phase is where the user puts something into the product in anticipation of some kind of future benefit. Now the investment phase, the purpose of the investment phase is to increase the likelihood of the next pass through the hook. To get the person to come back once again through these four steps of the hook. And investments do this in two ways.
The first way that investments bring users back is by loading the next trigger, by loading the next trigger. Something that the user does to bring themselves back. Good example of this is any kind of messaging service. So if you think about WhatsApp or Slack for example, anytime someone sends a message, there’s no immediate reward. You don’t get any points. You don’t get any badges. Nothing happens when you send someone a message, but what you’re doing when you send someone that message is that you are investing in the platform because doing that investment yields that. What’s that little red icon that may fall an example of? That’s an example of an external trigger that prompts you through the four steps of the hook once again, okay.
So loading the next trigger isn’t some piece of spam e-marketing that you sent me. It’s something that the user did to bring themselves back. Critically important lesson of these habit-forming products.
The next way that investments increase the likelihood of the next pass through the hook is by storing value. Now storing value is a really really big deal. Okay storing value is why I work in technology as opposed to selling things made of atoms right? Things made out of atoms, these chairs, these tables, my clothing, everything made of atoms in the physical world depreciates. It loses value with wear and tear. But habit forming technologies do the opposite. Habit-forming products get better and better with use. They appreciate with use.
For example, the more content people upload to Google Docs, the more valuable it becomes. The more data that people put into mint.com or Facebook or Pinterest, the more data we give these companies, we are literally making these products in real time with these platforms based on the data we give these companies. The more followers someone has, the more valuable the product becomes. If Twitter tomorrow were to say hey, we’re going to shut down Twitter unless you start paying for it, who’s going to start paying for Twitter? Is it going to be someone with 10 followers or 10,000 followers? Of course, it’s going to be the person with 10,000 followers because they have so much value stored in the form of their follower count. The product can do more the more followers somebody has.
And finally reputation. Reputation is a form of stored value that users can literally take to the bank. Because my reputation score on UpWork or eBay or Airbnb determines what I can charge for my goods and services. And how likely might leave one of these platforms after I’ve stored all this value in the form of my reputation? Kind of hard to do, it’s kinda hard to leave once I’ve invested all that effort in my reputation score.
Which brings me to this cold hard conclusion. I hope you’re listening well. There is no rule that I’ve ever seen that says the best product wins. That my friends is a big fat lie. It is not the best product that wins. Silicon Valley graveyards are full of companies that had the best technology. It’s not the best technology that wins. It’s the technology that captures the monopoly of the mind that captures the market. It’s companies that can send users through these four basic steps of the hook, the trigger, the action, the reward, and investment through successive cycles to change consumer habits by changing preferences, by changing attitudes and by changing user behavior.
So this is the most important slide of the presentation. If you’re building the kind of product that requires people to come back on their own, if you want to stop relying on spammy messages and expensive advertising and you want to build your own habit, you have to fundamentally have these full of these five questions answered.
Number one, what’s the internal trigger that your product is addressing? Number two, what’s the external trigger that prompts the user to action? Number three, what’s the simplest behavior the user can do in anticipation of a reward? Is the reward fulfilling and yet leaves the user wanting more? And then finally, what’s the bit of work the user does to bring themselves back through the hook once again?

The Morality of Manipulation
Now before I go, there’s one more thing I want to discuss, which is the morality of manipulation. Many of you during my presentation were thinking to yourselves, wait, wait a minute. Is this kosher to do to people? Is it all right to use their hidden psychology to change their user behavior? Is that okay to do? And if you had that reaction, I say bravo. Because let’s face it, any time we are changing people’s behavior to meet our commercial interests, that my friends, is a form of manipulation. And so we need to be very careful about how we apply these techniques because this is the kind of stuff, these are the kind of products that people take to bed with them every night.
So the first thing we reach for in the morning before we even say hello to our loved ones. And as Ian Bogost warns us, our technologies might be becoming the cigarettes of this century. So we have a very special moral responsibility to use these techniques for good. What I want you to do with these techniques is to not build another social media network. Those companies already know how to use these techniques. What I want people to do us outside the gaming companies, outside the social networks, to bring all kinds of products and services to people’s lives, and I know that people in this room have the kind of products and services that can truly improve people’s lives. That they are picking problems to fix and users day-to-day lives. And what I want you to do is to use the same exact techniques to help people live happier, healthier, more connected lives by using these habits to build healthy routines and healthy habits in people’s lives.
And to show you I put my money where my mouth is, I want to tell you about this quick product that I invested in a few a few years back. Glen Moriarty who is the CEO of this company called 7 cups. He called me a few years ago and said look, I’m a psychotherapist. No technical background whatsoever. He told me that he saw that many people who should get his services, who had, who are in desperate need of therapy, don’t get it. A soldier suffering from PTSD. A parent of a child with a disability or just someone who’s feeling depressed. Don’t these people don’t get therapy because it’s difficult. It’s hard to do. Think back to b equals m + a + t. The a, how hard it is, the ability is very low to get services like this, right? It takes a lot of time money physical effort, all these things make it difficult to get therapy.
Well Glen calls me up. I give office hours out every week by the way. If anybody would like office hours, I do this for free in 15 minute increments. He goes to my website. He books a 15 minute slot. He read my book and he said look, here’s my hook. The internal trigger is when someone’s feeling down and when someone’s feeling depressed and they need someone to talk to. The action is to just open the app and for no money, with the click of one button, you’re instantly connected with another human being. The variable reward is rewards of the tribe right? Connecting with another person. Rewards of the tribe. And finally the investment and here’s where it gets really good. Through each successive cycle through Glen’s hook, through 7 cups, you’re offered the opportunity to be a trained listener yourself. You invest in learning how to listen to others. And those who listen to learn to other to listen to other folks who call in to the service get better. Not just better, they get dramatically better. In fact, a third party study found that Glenn’s app, 7 cups, is as effective as traditional Psychotherapy. Glenn’s app services over 800,000 sessions a week in over 180 languages. Unbelievable. Talk about the amazing power of using habits to improve people’s lives.
And with that, I hope you the message that you’ll take away is that we really can affect people’s day-to-day habits by building in these habits for good and I encourage you to borrow from the words of Gandhi, to build the change that you wish to see in the world. Thank you very much.

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