Dr. BJ Fogg is the behavior scientist responsible for the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University. He founded it in 1998 to conduct research into computers as persuasive technologies that influence how people think and act. In 2003, Fogg published a book on his findings called Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do and then continued on to teach a course at Stanford on Facebook apps in 2007.
Fogg taught some of Silicon Valley’s preeminent individuals like Nir Eyal, Ed Baker, Kevin Systrom, Mike Krieger and Tristan Harris. In Fogg’s class, these students and more developed ways to make apps and devices addictive. The strategy was based on Fogg’s Behavior Model, which says that action occurs when three elements converge. The three key elements are motivation, ability and trigger, and Fogg says that if behavior does not occur, one of these is missing. App designers were taught to use this model to manipulate people to continue to use their technology.
Society and tech industry insiders alike have mixed feelings about Fogg’s teachings and how companies like Facebook have employed them to permeate the everyday lives of technology users around the world. While Fogg believes that consumers have the power to resist their smartphone addictions, critics like Tristan Harris and his Time Well Spent movement say it is up to technology companies to design less addictive, friendlier apps. If you’re concerned about your own smartphone addiction, consider deleting or disabling notifications for apps you spend a lot of time on. Turning your phone on grayscale is also known to help.