The Behavioral State Model

The Behavioral State Model

The Behavioral State Model is a model of behavior that I’ve been developing for a number of years.

Behavioral State Model

The basic idea is that at any moment in time we are in a particular “Behavioral State”. This state is determined by:

  • Our personality
  • Our perception
  • Our emotions
  • Our abilities
  • Our social status/situation
  • Our motivations
  • Our social environment
  • Our physical environment

The first 6 items together make up our identity:

  • Identity = Personality + Perception + Emotions + Abilities + Social Status/Situation + Motivations

And the perception component can be broken down into two subcomponents:

  • Perception
    • Biology
    • Beliefs

In every moment, we are in a particular Behavioral State. The Behavioral State we’re in makes certain actions more likely and certain actions less likely.

For example, if in the current moment we have a low ability to exercise, or have a belief that exercising is a waste of time, our current Behavioral State will make that behavior unlikely.

At any given moment in time, a Behavioral State Score can be calculated for any given behavior. This score is determined by all of the different components:

  • Behavioral State Score for (specific behavior)
    • Personality: Is this person interested in this specific behavior? Does it fit into their value system? Does it match their preferences?
    • Perception: Does this person believe that this specific behavior is fun, interesting, helpful, etc? Do they even think it’s possible? Do they have the perceptual ability to partake?
    • Emotions: Is this person in an emotional or unemotional state? If they’re in an emotional state, are they in the right emotional state for this behavior to occur?
    • Abilities: Does this person have the ability to perform this specific behavior? Do they have a special talent for this specific behavior?
    • Social Status/Situation: Does this person’s social position encourage this specific behavior? Will this specific behavior increase or decrease their social status?
    • Motivations: Is this person motivated to perform this specific behavior? Is there a reward or incentive for doing this specific behavior?
    • Social Environment: Is there a social norm/social pressure for this specific behavior in their current context?
    • Physical Environment: Is it possible to perform the specific behavior in this current physical environment?

If any component is insufficient for a particular behavior, it will not occur.

The Behavioral State Model also gives Behavioral Designers and applied behavioral scientists a framework they can use to change behavior. In order to get someone to behave differently, you first need to understand their Behavioral State and which components are lacking. By doing a Behavioral State Analysis you can determine the most effective way of changing the behavior in question.

The Behavioral State Model also provides Behavioral Designers with a variety of different levers they can pull to modify behavior. The Behavior State Model has eight behavioral modifiers, where the other popular models in the field have three:

  • The Behavioral State Model
    • 8 Behavioral Modifiers
      • Personality
      • Perception
      • Emotions
      • Abilities
      • Social status/situation
      • Motivations
      • Social environment
      • Physical environment
  • The Fogg Behavior Model
    • 3 Behavioral Modifiers
      • Motivation
      • Ability
      • Trigger
  • COM-B Model
    • 3 Behavioral Modifiers
      • Capability
      • Opportunity
      • Motivation

In addition, the Behavioral State Model incorporates cognitive factors (like perceptions and beliefs) and personality. These are important determinants of behavior that are missing from other behavior change models.