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Four behaviour change models and how to use them

There are numerous models of behaviour change available to help us encourage certain types of behaviour.

In a nutshell

  1. For micro pushes, the MINDSPACE framework. 
  2. For macro pulls, TRA’s Norm-Storming model.
  3. For holistic models that cover the spectrum, we use the COM-B model and TRA’s 5 Point Behaviour Change model.

The video above provides an overview of four different behaviour change models, including when and how to use them (you can download the slides here). Some are better suited to micro pushes or nudges, (using behavioural economics to prompt small changes) whilst other models are better suited to broader culture change:

  • For micro pushes, the MINDSPACE model
  • For macro pulls, TRA’s Norm-Storming model

And for holistic models that cover the spectrum, we use:

  • The COM-B model of behaviour change
  • TRA’s 5 Point Behaviour Change model

micro push and macro pull


For an overview of micro and macro behaviour change, please refer to our introductory webinar - a great starting point before diving into the different behaviour change models. 




MINDSPACE was developed by the Nudge Unit within the UK Cabinet Office and Institute for Government in 2010. It is a collection of nine different behavioural influences or nudges that can be applied to behaviour change and policy making. MINDSPACE is a mnemonic, with each letter standing for a different behavioural economics principle.

When to use it

The model is effective at adding an additional layer of micro nudges to a wider behaviour change strategy. It’s important to understand the wider context and the larger, macro levers that can be pulled; and then apply MINDSPACE as an additional layer of tactical nudges.

How to use it

At TRA, we use MINDSPACE to help identify opportunities and to help develop behaviour change interventions and tactics. You can use the nine different principles as checklist when developing your programme of work, campaign or strategy.

MINDSPACE can also be used as a diagnostic tool for identifying barriers that are preventing the target behaviour. Use it as a checklist for what might be holding the behaviour back.

Further Reading

Podcast: Behavioural Grooves Podcast, interview with Co-Author of MINDSPACE, Michael Hallsworth




Norm storming diagram



What is Norm-Storming?

When people refer to norms or social norms, they are often referring to a common behavior that everyone is doing. However, there are distinct types of social norms:

  • Personal norms: sometimes described as our moral compass, the expectations we hold for ourselves.
  • Socially observable norms: sometimes described as our herding instinct, descriptive or empirical norms, comes from unconsciously or consciously observing what others are doing.
  • Societal expectation norms: sometimes described as injunctive or normative norms - the way people are expected to behave.

This framework is a way to identify the different social norms that are at play and whether the three norms are in balance. With this understanding, we can know which norms to harness. Each type of norm needs a different approach. To change behaviour, we would look at how we could dial one of these norms up or down.

When to use it

Social norms can be strong and ingrained, so use the Norm-Storming framework if you are looking for long lasting social and cultural change. Harnessing existing norms that are aligned with the ideal behaviour is a key opportunity for behaviour change or maintaining existing ideal behaviours.

However, changing social norms or even dialling up or dialling down existing norms does not happen overnight. You can’t nudge a social norm, it requires an ongoing programme of work to turn the dial.

How to use it

  1. Identify the personal norms, the socially observable norms and societal expectation norms for the behaviour you are looking to change
  2. Determine whether the norms are strongly or weakly held. This helps clarify the dynamics between the three norms.
  3. Once there is an understanding of the dynamics at play, we can know which norms to potentially dial up or down.

There are different approaches and strategies depending on which norms we are looking to influence. For instance, if we have identified that societal expectation norms are weakly held, then we can look to define and dial up societal expectation norms through the messages of authority figures in society.

Further Reading

TRA Norm-Storming Webinar

Norms in the Wild by Cristina Bicchieri (S. J. Patterson Harvie Professor of Social Thought and Comparative Ethics at Wharton, UPenn)

Christine Bicchieri’s Social Norm guide, developed for UNICEF



five point behaviour change model



What is the Five Point Behaviour Change model?

It’s TRA’s holistic model that helps us understand and affect behaviour from the broader context through to actionable triggers and reinforcers for ongoing, habitual behaviour.

The first two stages of our model, drivers and restraints, put a broader lens across current behaviour from a wider context and help us understand the macro level ‘pulls’ of the behaviour.

1. Drivers of behaviour

These range from from individual personality traits, for instance, some people are greater risk takers than others, to social context, (our peer group) and what is deemed socially acceptable, through to cultural influences, such as beliefs, traditions and cultural trends.

2. Restraints to change

Effort is one of the main reasons people are reluctant to change behaviour, but there are others. These include the hard-wired habitual behaviour created by unconscious cues, routine and repetition. And as with the drivers of behaviour, the individual, social and cultural context can also work against the desired behaviour.

Stages 3, 4 and 5 are more tactical and practical and help identify the micro behavioural pushes for behaviour change – and for ongoing habitual behaviour.

3. Change activators

Identifying opportunities that improve the experience or the outcome of an action. These include practical and physical intervention opportunities at the micro-context level - how easy is the product to find, how simple is the process and how clear are the options?

4. Actuation

Behaviour change is rarely successful without an emotional reward and the activation of people’s senses and feelings. A reward can be a smell, a feeling of happiness, a perception of belonging, or anything that speaks to our emotions.

5. Reinforcement

Just when we are congratulating ourselves on getting people to do what we want them to do, they lapse into old habits. Often this is because we have ignored the critical phase of continuous improvement and reinforcement, which is where we encourage the creation of habits and commitment to ongoing behaviour change (such as through commitment devices or pre-commitment opportunities). A powerful role for research is to measure and monitor the stickiness of behaviour and the progress along the pathway to change.

When to use it

Use this model when you need oversight of the whole context of behaviour change – from the broader context through to the triggers, cues and routines that allow for repeated, habitual behaviour.

How to use it

This model can be used to provide a holistic understanding and strategy for ongoing behaviour change when all five points are put into practice.

We also use the five points as a methodology. First, understand the broader (1) drivers and (2) restraints and uncover potential (3) activators through the research process. Develop interventions for (3) activators, (4) actuation triggers and (5) reinforcers and test to see how effective they are.

The model provides a holistic overview and general scaffolding, therefore other models can be used alongside it for further understanding. For instance, MINDSPACE can be used alongside this model to further encourage the drivers and reinforcers of the desired behaviour.

Further Reading

TRA’s Manifesto, Chapter 9 - Behaviour Change.

Understanding how culture intersects with behaviour change



behaviour change model

What is COM-B?

The COM-B model was developed from 19 frameworks of behaviour change identified in a systematic literature review by UCL, Centre for Behaviour Change by Susan Michie, Maartje M van Stralen and Robert West.

COM-B outlines that Capability, Opportunity, Motivation (COM) are required for a behaviour (B) to be performed.

Capability: Psychological capability (our knowledge, education and psychological fortitude) and physical capability (our physical strength, skill or stamina)

Opportunity: Physical opportunity (opportunities provided by the environment, such as time, location and resource) and social opportunity (opportunities as a result of social factors, such as cultural norms and social cues)

Motivation: Reflective motivation (reflective processes, such as making plans and evaluating things that have already happened) and automatic motivation (automatic processes, such as our desires, impulses and inhibitions)

TRA has simplified this into Know how, Can do, Want to

  • Do people have the capability – the know how?
  • Do people have the opportunity – the can do?
  • Do people have the motivation – the want to?

When to use it

COM-B spans both micro and macro behaviour change. It can be applied at a micro level, for specific interventions, at one key touchpoint or key moment. Or it can be used at a macro level to identify barriers and opportunities at the wider context level.

How to use it

Like MINDSPACE, we use COM-B as a diagnostic checklist to identify barriers and restraints that are holding back the desired behaviour, and as checklist for identifying opportunities and developing interventions that promote the desired behaviour.

At TRA, we like to cross reference the COM-B model across the micro and macro levels, working across the individual, social and cultural context. For instance, at the individual level, do people have the Know How, Can Do, Want To, when they are in the moment and at a key touchpoint? And at a cultural or systemic level, does the culture and the broader system allow for the Know How, Can Do and Want To, that supports the desired behaviour?

Further Reading

Social Change UK’s COM-B Guide
Michie’s 2011 study that introduces COM-B and the Behaviour Change Wheel
Michie’s book and guide on COM-B and the Behaviour Change Wheel


Lindsey Horne
Behavioural Insights Lead
With a background in neuroscience and applied behavioural science, Lindsey works across behaviour change projects with social and government clients. Her approach to behaviour change is holistic, from broader cultural and social change through to behavioural economics and nudges.

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