What are three types of behavioural triggers?

Every human being has specific and unique behaviour to that individual; these behaviours can be inherited from parents or acquired through their upbringing. The research on behaviours, especially in humans, dates as far back as the 19th century. In 1879, by a German scientist Wilhelm Wundt who began his research into human behaviour, which eventually became known as Psychology. Later on, in 1913, John Watson presented his theory that human behaviour is based on specific conditioned responses to stimuli.  Based on John Watson’s theory, there are certain things we are exposed to that bring out particular behaviours. These conditioned stimuli can be positive (good behaviour), or they can also be negative stimuli that bring about a different response. Understanding this behaviour and what triggers it is vital, especially in workplaces, schools, and homes. This article will bring to light the primary behavioural triggers that occur in our lives.


Simply put, triggers are a call-to-action. They are cues, signals, or nudges that motivate us to do something or exhibit a behaviour.

External triggers

This trigger type is a standard stimulus for certain behaviour traits; environmental factors mainly cause an external trigger. External triggers are outside factors that nudge you to do something. The environment in which an individual is brought up can set off emotions or behaviours that the person only portrays when they find themselves in a familiar environment. Studies show that a child raised in a noisier environment might not do so well in a tranquil setting, triggering a behaviour like restlessness. Behaviours triggered mainly by external factors are performed more frequently and have become a lifestyle. This lifestyle is challenging to change or replace. You can easily manipulate external triggers to bring out the expected or wanted behaviour. For example, advertising companies capitalize on this trigger to stimulate people to react to a product or service being sold. The following are some of the external stimuli we are exposed to; uncomfortable or stressful environments,

certain styles of music, drugs, social events, financial troubles, responsibilities, toxic or stressful people, pollution, etc.

Types of external triggers

 According to Stanford professor BJ Fogg, there are three types of external triggers.

Spark: The spark trigger motivates you to act. It is a strategy used by many companies when advertising a product. They cleverly use ads and marketing campaigns to trigger emotions in you and convince you to buy their product or service.

Facilitator: This trigger works with complicated things like dealing with trauma, setting up a new phone, etc. Facilitator triggers help you complete an action and make it seem effortless. It usually works under the guidance of someone more experienced in that particular field of expertise. For example, when dealing with trauma with the help of a therapist. Also, many cult leaders use the facilitator trigger to influence members to do things they would not have otherwise done on their own.

Signal: Signal triggers act like reminders of who we are, what we can do, or what we want to do. It works best with motivated people who can finish a task or do something. It could be everything from a calendar reminder or a text message notification.

We can further classify external triggers into hot and cold triggers.

A hot trigger makes you want to take action now. However, you may feel uneasiness and discomfort until the task is completed or you perform the act. For example, a YouTube notification prompting that your favourite channel has uploaded a new video.

A cold trigger can be described as a subtle and gradual persuasion to act. Usually, it is not ”in your face” like a hot trigger, and there is no opportunity to take action. A good example is advertising. A fast-food restaurant will visually appeal to your senses by showing you the most delicious burgers and fries you have seen. So, what happens the next time you are hungry and crave a burger and fries? Yes, you will order from the restaurant that advertised their mouth-watering burgers and fries to you.


Internal triggers

These triggers are from within the individual and not influenced by environmental factors. Internal triggers are based on feelings, emotions, and thoughts that bring about specific behaviours. These behaviours can also be called endogamous triggers, even though internal they may have the same influencing power as external triggers. Behaviours triggered by internal factors are more inherited than learned, thereby emanating from a person’s brain. Unlike external triggers that can be controlled or influenced by a change of environment, internal triggers have more control over you since they are feelings and emotions. Still, then we have control over whether to act on them or not. For example, an individual experiencing happiness will smile more and be open to everyone they meet. This joy is brought about by the person’s state of mind at that time, leading to that kind of behaviour. Internal triggers include shame, anger, happiness, strength, depression, pessimism, optimism, nervousness, hunger, thirst, boredom, sleepiness, etc.

Synthetic triggers.

Synthetic triggers are behavioural stimuli that an individual intentionally brings up. This individual has absolute control over these stimuli. They can decide when and how they want this trigger to affect them. It is a very interesting trigger since the individual has a direct hand in it compared to the internal (endogamous) and external (environmental) triggers. You can use synthetic triggers for creative and transformational thinking purposes.

Want to change a behaviour or lifestyle? A great place to start is taking note of the triggers around you to achieve your behaviour goals. Sometimes a well-designed trigger can make all the difference.

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