top of page
  • Writer's pictureJulie de Vaan

Behavioral Change and the power of influencing behavior

Updated: May 30

Behavior and behavioral change are receiving increasing attention within organizations. But what exactly is behavioral change, and why is it relevant? In this article, we will explain its essence and value.

What is the psychology behind behavior?

Our brains largely function in the same way thanks to thousands of years of evolution. We have, so to speak, a set of "buttons" in our heads. These buttons determine our behavior because they are continuously and automatically pressed by the signals we pick up from our environment. This way, we constantly respond to the situations we find ourselves in. This automatic response is convenient because we don't always have the time or inclination to carefully consider every choice. Our buttons allow us to make quick decisions throughout the day without consciously thinking about them. Thus, our behavior is often influenced by the situation we are in.

Why do people sometimes exhibit unwanted behavior?

From an evolutionary perspective, these buttons in our heads are very useful. They helped us survive in ancient times and continue to help us. They warn us, guide us, and save us a lot of time and energy.

Nevertheless, we are still humans, not machines. Sometimes our "operating system" does not work optimally, and we make wrong choices. This is because situations change faster than our buttons do. As a result, some situations are too complex to simply make the right choices based on our automatic response. Choices that were desirable in the past may no longer be the best ones. Updating our operating system takes a lot of time. This means that the old buttons in our heads continue to influence us, and we are not always preprogrammed to make the best choices.

​Here are a few simple examples that illustrate this:

  • From an evolutionary perspective, the taste of sweetness indicates an energy source for our bodies, which is why we have an inherent preference for sweetness. In today's society, where sugar is abundant, this preference can be harmful to our health. Yet, we still crave sweetness.

  • In the past, conserving energy was an essential survival skill due to limited food supply. This has caused us to still have a tendency to "do nothing." We prefer laziness over effort. As a result, we often find change difficult and frequently choose the easiest options, even if they are not optimal.

How does behavioral change work?

It is often assumed that we are always capable of making conscious choices whenever we want to change our behavior. To change behavior, the usual approach is to provide information, increase knowledge, or emphasize the consequences of our behavior. However, if we lack the necessary attention, intention, or cognitive capacity at the moment of choice, we will act based on our buttons and automatic operating system. If the situation does not activate the right buttons, we will automatically make wrong choices or exhibit unwanted behavior.

The most effective way to change behavior is by creating a situation that activates the right buttons. People will then automatically exhibit the desired behavior. Therefore, behavior change is about investigating and understanding which buttons in our heads are important for behavior and how we can activate these buttons in our specific situation to encourage the desired behavior. With this knowledge, we can create situations that consistently bring out the best in people's behavior.

Effectively and sustainably changing behavior is complex. That's why we create and use Behavior Models to make it easier. These models provide valuable insights into understanding behavior and achieving effective behavior change. Read more about our Behavioral Models and discover how they can contribute to positive change.

bottom of page