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 engaged in reputation-enhancing behavior
  • 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 experience or witness something that goes against their values
  • Interest: Use to motivate people to seek information when something is novel and complex
  • Prospect of shame: Use to motivate people to avoid a socially-undesirable action when others might find out

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.

School Children Running with Books
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.