OPINION14 December 2020

Behavioural friction

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Behavioural science Covid-19 Impact Opinion

Crawford Hollingworth examines how ‘friction’ can be identified, minimised and even used to discourage undesired behaviour.


Research into habits and daily routines finds that the easier a behaviour is to do, the greater the chance that a new habit will be established. When we’re establishing a new behaviour, we have to consciously think about doing it, which takes more effort and can make it seem harder to achieve. Minimising barriers so that it feels less daunting can facilitate the process of building a new habit.

Yet, with so many contextual variables currently in flux as restrictions related to Covid-19 change week by week – differing by country and even region – and with many consumers feeling cognitively strained, overwhelmed or anxious, there is more behavioural friction than ever.

Friction can get in the way of desired behaviour, but it can also be engaged to discourage undesired behaviour and steer towards the behaviour you want to happen.

Analysing existing friction

It’s important to identify the behavioural friction in people’s lives that might be preventing them from ...