What Is Friction In Behavioral Economics?

In behavioral economics, friction refers to any factor or obstacle that increases the effort or time required for individuals to make a decision or complete a task. Friction can manifest in various forms, such as cognitive, physical, or procedural barriers, and often leads to a decrease in the likelihood of a particular action being taken, as individuals may opt for easier or more convenient alternatives.

The concept of friction has its roots in behavioral and cognitive psychology, where researchers have long studied the impact of effort and complexity on decision-making. It has since been adopted by behavioral economists to explain deviations from traditional rational choice models and to understand the role of context and choice architecture in shaping decision outcomes.

Friction is an essential concept in the design of interventions and public policies aimed at promoting or discouraging certain behaviors. By identifying and reducing friction points, decision-makers can make desired actions more accessible and convenient, increasing the likelihood of adoption. Conversely, increasing friction can help discourage undesirable behaviors. Examples of friction reduction include simplifying forms, providing clear instructions, and using defaults to guide choices, while introducing friction might involve adding extra steps, implementing waiting periods, or requiring additional documentation.

Related Behavioral Economics Terms