Model Basics

The EAST model was developed by the Behavioural Insight Team with the aim of facilitating the application of behavioural insights to practitioners and policy makers. The model proposes that to encourage a behaviour, the behaviour needs to be easy to to (E), attractive (A), social (S) and timely (T) [14]. The model is not meant to be a comprehensive representation of what influences behaviour, but rather an evidence-based, memorable and simple enough way to think about how to effectively approach behaviour change. 

EASY

We are more likely to do something when it is easy to do. The level of effort and hassle involved can make the difference between someone doing something or giving up on it. The model suggest 3 effective techniques that you can apply to make a behaviour easier:

  1. Use defaults. We have a strong tendency to stay with the default option, so making the desired behaviour the default can be a powerful tool for practitioners and policy makers to encourage behaviours and improve the uptake of services. Automatic pension enrolment (with a clear and easy option to opt-out if requested) [15] or the use of default vegetarian catering options are good examples of ethically harnessing the power of defaults.
  1. Reduce the level of friction. Policy makers and practitioners can also encourage the desired behaviour by making it easier, or by making other competing behaviours harder to do. Pre-filling information in forms or reducing the number of steps involved in signing up for a service are good examples of reducing friction.
  1. Simplify messages. The model highlights the importance of simplifying complex information and of presenting it in a clear way. Effective techniques to simplify messaging include making sure that the key message is clearly presented, keeping language simple and jargon-free, presenting recommended actions clearly or removing all non-essential information. 

ATTRACTIVE

We can encourage the desired behaviour by making it more attractive than other alternative behaviours. We can attract attention through surprise, novelty or by making some elements stand out. For example, a personalised message directed specifically to us will catch our attention more than a generic message. We can also make a behaviour more (or less) attractive by coupling it with incentives (or sanctions). Incentives can be tangible, such as getting free relevant products or services or an entry to a lottery draw, but they don’t need to be. For example, we can also incentivise a behaviour by making someone feel really good about doing it.

SOCIAL

We are heavily influenced by what other people say and do. Policy makers and practitioners can harness these social influences to encourage (or discourage) specific behaviours. The model suggests 3 effective techniques to leverage social influence:

  1. Use social norms. Social  norms are collective beliefs about what behaviours are expected or appropriate in a given situation. Telling people what most other people are doing (descriptive social norms) can have an impact in our behaviour and motivate the desired behaviours. 
  1. Leverage the power of networks. We are naturally embedded in different social networks. Practitioners and policy makers can leverage the influence of these networks and use them to support and spread the desired behaviours.
  1. Use commitment devices. We tend to be aware of the discrepancy between our intentions and our actions and use commitment devices to try to bridge the gap between the two by increasing the cost of not doing the behaviour that you have committed to do. For example, if you intend to exercise more but you know you find it hard to do, you might buy a yearly pass at your local gym (so that if you don’t go you will have wasted the money) or you might arrange to exercise with a friend (so that if you don’t do it you’ll have to keep cancelling on your friend).

TIMELY

We respond differently to prompts depending on when they occur, so it is important for practitioners and policy makers to consider the timing of an intervention when trying to influence behaviour. Prompting people when they are more receptive to the message, considering the initial costs or benefits of the behaviour we are trying to encourage and helping people make concrete and specific plans on how to carry out the desired behaviour are important considerations in this model.

The EAST model also outlines the broader process for successfully implementing behavioural insight projects. The first step is to define the outcome of the project or policy. This involves considerations such as defining the key metrics that would demonstrate the success of the intervention, deciding what sample size would be needed or defining during which time period we would expect to see the changes in behaviour. The next step involves understanding the context in which the project or policy is going to take place to understand the key barriers and opportunities within the existing system. After defining the outcome and understanding the context we can build the intervention using the EAST model. The last stage in the process is to test, learn and adapt. Test the effectiveness of the intervention using appropriate evaluation methods and adapt your interventions accordingly. 

Model Strengths

✅ The EAST model is really user-friendly and it offers guidance on practical implementation

✅ It offers explicit guidance and examples on the aspects to consider when making an intervention easy, attractive, social and timing

✅ Its simplicity and focus on the practical aspects of behaviour change makes it more likely to be used by busy policy makers

Model Weaknesses

❌ The EAST model relies heavily on changing the choice architecture and ignores other important influences on people’s behaviour, such as reflective processes like attitudes or beliefs. However, the BIT recognises that the model is not intended to be comprehensive.

❌ If not used carefully, the model may seem like a disconnected list of techniques, with no understanding of the mechanisms that these techniques are meant to influence

Model Snapshot

Key takeaway

To encourage a behaviour, you need to make it easy to do, attractive, social and timely. 

When to use this model

When you need a simple guide on how to infuse some behavioural insights into your project.

What you get from this model

A simple way to incorporate evidence-based techniques to make a behaviour easy, attractive, social and timely. A simple methodology to apply these techniques in practice.

What you don’t get from this model

The EAST model is not intended as a complex or comprehensive tool to change behaviour. It has a heavy focus on choice architecture and as such is not a model to understand the motivation behind people’s behaviour or how to encourage reflective behaviour change.

Extra Resources

🧠 Read the full report by the Behavioural Insights Team here: EAST, four simple ways to apply behavioural insights

🧠 Read the full report by the Behavioural Insights Team here: EAST, four simple ways to apply behavioural insights