Many of our decisions are driven by how an action makes us feel or connects to personal interests and concerns.

Principles & Strategies

Leverage emotions in specific contexts

  • Pride: Use to motivate people to show others what they have done when they have achieved a goal or done the right thing
  • Joy: Use to motivate people to talk to others or reinforce their behavior when they have achieved a goal or gained resources
  • Hope: Use to motivate people to start a behavior when they can achieve a desired outcome while facing a threat
  • Fear: Use to motivate people to avoid risks when they experience uncertainty or an immediate threat
  • Anger: Use to motivate people to confront others when they witness injustice or experience threats to personal autonomy
  • Amusement and surprise: Use to motivate people to seek information when something is novel and complex
  • Prospect of shame: Use to motivate people to avoid an action when others might find out about socially-undesirable actions

Personalize the message

  • Put a human face on campaigns and focus on a single story over abstract statistics
  • Tailor messages to make them personally relevant, relatable, and appealing


Be intentional when selecting emotions, and base your messaging strategy on your data and context. Emotions are powerful drivers of behavior, and eliciting the ‘wrong’ emotion can lead to opposite or unintended effects.

Joy can help kids want to share what they learned with their parents and community members.

Explore a real life case that leveraged emotional appeals to protect communities and their environment. Project Cane Changer put sugarcane farmers at the center of a solution that protects marine ecosystems, improves ocean health and secures livelihoods.