If there’s anything you should know about Nir Eyal, it’s that he has an adorable family. I know because his family is involved in the Habit Summit he hosts every year at Stanford and his daughter inevitably makes an appearance on stage. His pride in her and his family and their pride in him are simply adorable.
Being part of an adorable family is only one of Eyal’s talents, though. His other is understanding the technology that engages us and it’s the focus of Hooked.
The attempt to understand human behavior has diverged into two similar but distinct paths. One has been through behavioral economics, which attempts to understand the shortcuts influencing our behavior and choices. This approach is rooted in the field of psychology. The other path is in the field of behavior design and design thinking, which has become a major focus of business schools around the world. Eyal came from the latter and this influence is seen in his research and writing. Rather than writing about observations in behavior and the theories behind what inspires them, Eyal writes toward the application of what he’s learned.
Eyal pursues an understanding of how the most addictive apps have influenced their users’ behavior. He studied models that worked and those that didn’t. From that research, he developed the “Hook Model,” which is an entrepreneur’s map to creating addictive technology. According to Eyal, hooking users is about providing meaningful and relevant triggers, actions, rewards, and investments. It is an infinite loop that must be maintained in order to maintain “hookededness” (my word, not Eyal’s. Trademarked.)
As a psychologist, I most valued Eyal’s insights and advice on using rewards and triggers. To be effective in the long term, the rewards must be variable. If they are not variable, it is less likely that the trigger for the desired behavior will move from being an extrinsic trigger (one that the app designer must activate every time) to an intrinsic trigger (one that the user subconsciously activates).
The book was practically inspiring. It made me feel like I could design an app that was meaningful to people. Eyal’s model and accessible explanations endow the reader with super powers in design. Suddenly, I felt like I understood how to hook people.
I also felt like I understood how to create something addictive.
With great power comes great responsibility. Eyal acknowledges that and encourages the reader to identify and understand the potential ethical conflicts in creating addictive apps. He offers the “Manipulation Matrix” as a counterpoint to the potential power of the “Hook Model.” The matrix is a way for readers to consider whether they are improving the lives of others in a way they apply to themselves. It’s simple, but it’s critical to gut check the not yet fully understood power of habit formation.
Hooked is for anyone looking to understand human behavior and especially for those looking to influence others into adopting new and healthful habits through technology.