People care about the costs and benefits of doing an action, particularly if it involves time, money, or effort.

Principles & Strategies

Make it easy (or the alternative hard)

  • Make the desired behavior more convenient and accessible to do (e.g., remove barriers, provide substitutes)
  • Make the undesired behavior more difficult to do (e.g., create friction points, barriers)

Give rewards or penalties

  • Incentivize or reinforce desired behavior
  • Penalize or fine for doing the undesired behavior


Material incentives can crowd out other internal motivations for doing a behavior, such as in the case of volunteering.  Rewarding good behavior can also build expectations that these rewards will be ongoing and may need to increase over time for the same effect. Some people might see fines as the price to do the behavior.

Deputized fishers confiscate gear and fish after fishers are caught using illegal trawling nets. Photo credit: Jason Houston