What is a Behavioral Barrier?
Behavioral barriers are the psychological, emotional, or cognitive challenges that can stop customers from doing what we want them to do (whether that's engaging with our app, buying our product, and more). When we're applying behavioral science and marketing psychology to an experience, it's critical that we start to figure out not just what we want people to do, but what's stopping them from doing it.
For example, if customers are overwhelmed by how long it takes to complete your checkout process and give up they might be falling victim to Friction or Cognitive Overload.
How I use these cards with my clients
I use these cards with my clients when we're trying to figure out where their customer experience is breaking down (usually in a customer journey mapping or user journey mapping project, during user research or when applying my CHOICE canvas framework to their experience).
Each card has an easy-to-understand definition and thought starters to help folks figure out if the barrier applies (and how to fix it). These are especially helpful for getting clients who are new to the world of behavioral science comfortable with basic principles and process.
(If you want to download a FREE set of these to print out or use in virtual workshops, click here.)
Here's a quick summary of the principles on each card - the cards also include thought starter questions that can help people understand when these principles might be appearing:
✅ 1. Hyperbolic Discounting: Our brains are hardwired to value immediate rewards over long-term rewards.
✅ 2. Choice Overload: Options are good - to a point. Too many options can slow down decisions, make customers feel anxious or uncertain, or completely stop them from buying or engaging.
✅ 3. Social Norms: A shared standard of acceptable behavior in a group, community, or culture. We want to adhere to social norms, so sharing that a behavior is 'normal' can help get more folks to adopt it.
✅ 4. Status Quo Bias: People don't like to change the way things are because they don't want to run the risk that a new way of doing things might fail.
✅ 5. Affect Heuristic: We tend to make decisions based on our emotional state.
✅ 6. Goal Gradient Effect: People are motivated by how far they have to go until they meet their goal - not how much they've accomplished so far.
✅ 7. Capability: People need to have the psychological or physical ability to do what we're asking them to do.
✅ 8. Friction: These are the barriers that stand between a customer and their goals. Friction can frustrate people, but it can also get them to slow down and pay attention at key moments.
✅ 9. Uncertainty: When we feel anxious and fearful because we don't know what's going to happen. Eliminating uncertainty can help people make better decisions faster.
✅ 10. Cognitive Overload: Our brains can only handle so much information or stimulus at one time.
✅ 11. Behavioral Scripts: Shortcuts that help us navigate everyday situations, like eating at a restaurant (we're 'supposed' to start with drinks and end with dessert).
✅ 12. Zero Risk Bias: We prefer options where risk has (seemingly) been eliminated.
✅ 13. Loss Aversion: People hate to lose. When something is framed as a loss, it can repel customers.
✅ 14. Value Exchange: Customers need to feel that requests for behavior change, data, or other info are being reciprocated with an offer of value from the business.
✅ 15. Opportunity: External elements that make it easy to perform a task. Can include tech like smartphones, high-speed internet, or wearables.
✅ 16. Motivation: How motivated are our customers to do what we're asking them to do? This could be internal motivation or external rewards & incentives.