B. J. Fogg

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BJ Fogg
2017 portrait BJ Fogg
Alma materBrigham Young University, Stanford University
Known forcaptology
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University
ThesisCharismatic computers (1997)

B.J. Fogg is a social science research associate at Stanford[1] and author. He is the founder and director of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, later renamed as Behavior Design Lab.[2][3]

Writing and teaching[edit]

Fogg has a B.A.[4] and M.A. in English from Brigham Young University[5] and a Ph.D in Communications from Stanford,[6] where he served as a teaching assistant to Philip Zimbardo.[7]

From 1992-1993, Fogg was "one of the founders of the Student Review, Brigham Young University's independent student newspaper" and "taught English and design at BYU."[8] While at BYU, Fogg published eight short stories and poems in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought; [9][10][11] Sunstone, "a quarterly journal of Mormon experience, scholarship, issues, and art";[12][13] and other Mormon-affiliated publications.[14] His Masters thesis, "Terms of Address Among Latter-Day Saints"[15] and "Names Mormons Use for Jesus: Contexts and Trends"[16] were both published by the Deseret Language and Linguistics Society Symposium in February, 1990 and March, 1991, respectively.

In 1998, Fogg published a peer-reviewed paper, Persuasive Computers: Perspectives and Research Directions, which included a section that "proposes ethical responsibilities for designers of persuasive computers and captology researchers, and discusses the importance of educating about persuasion."[17]

In 1999, he was the guest editor for an issue of ACM focusing on persuasive technologies.[18]

In 2003, Fogg published the book, Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. This book provided a foundation for captology, the study of Computers As Persuasive Technologies. In it, he discusses the implications of macrosuasion and microsuasion—terms he uses to define and describe the persuasive intent of a product, providing examples across the web, in video games, and other software products.[19]

In 2006, Fogg and some of his students created a video for consideration by the FTC about persuasive technology.[20]

In 2007, Fogg co-taught a Stanford course about Facebook Apps with Dave McClure,[21] where students used persuasive design to create Facebook apps that amassed millions of users during the 10 week course.[22] The New York Times, quoted Fogg as referring to it as "a period of time when you could walk in and collect gold.”[23]

In 2009, Fogg published the Fogg Behavior Model (FBM), a model for analyzing and designing human behavior.[24] The FBM describes three conditions needed for a behavior to occur: (1) motivation (2) ability and (3) a prompt. Motivation can be influenced by factors like pleasure/pain, hope/fear, and social acceptance/rejection. Ability can be impacted by time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance, and non-routine. Prompts are also referred to as triggers.[25]

In December 2011, Fogg developed a method to develop habits from baby steps, which he calls “Tiny Habits”.[26] He gave two TEDx talks on this and related topics.[27][28]

He was the founder and director of Stanford's Mobile Health conference (2008-2012).[29]

Accusations of promotion of behavioral & "unscientific" manipulation[edit]

In August 2011, the Pacific Standard,[30] an online publication of The Social Justice Foundation,[31] published a critique by Dr. Bran Knowles, a Data Science lecturer and ethicist at Lancester University[32] challenging:

"...though Fogg dedicates a chapter of his 2002 book Persuasive Technology to questions of ethics, searches for “ethics” and “manipulation” on the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab website yield no results, and academics and researchers probing questions of ethics in persuasive technology are few and far between. Knowles chalks this up to the example set by Fogg, in which 'users are expected to accept the basic premise of the ‘correctness’ of the designers’ chosen end behavior; and the designer is not expected to have rigorously debated the preferability of this end behavior."[33]

In May, 2016, in Behavior Analyst, science journalist and author David H. Freedman,[34] characterized Fogg as "disingenuous and unscientific":

"B. J. Fogg and his Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab likewise have gained recognition and popularity by enlisting principles strikingly similar to those of behaviorism and reformulating them so as to seem novel and resonant. Though it might seem disingenuous and unscientific to do so, it would in principle be possible for the field of behavior analysis to 'reinvent' itself for public consumption in a different, catchier form, while adhering to the same principles and techniques."[35]

In October, 2016, The Economist featured Fogg in a special issue, "The Scientists Who Make Apps Addictive":

"...behaviourism never went away completely, and in recent years it has re-emerged in a new form, as an applied discipline deployed by businesses and governments to influence the choices you make every day: what you buy, who you talk to, what you do at work. Its practitioners are particularly interested in how the digital interface – the box in which we spend most of our time today – can shape human decisions. The name of this young discipline is 'behaviour design'. Its founding father is B.J. Fogg."[36]

In the same 2016 Economist article, Tristan Harris defended Fogg asserting "BJ founded the field of behaviour design,... but he doesn’t have an answer to the ethics of it."[37] He subsequently reasserted in a series of tweets: "I want to clarify yet again that BJ was one of the first to raise awareness on the topic of the Ethics of Persuasive Technology since 1997."[38] Harris also argues Fogg did not invent persuasive technology: "There was this whole discipline of persuasive technology before BJ came along."[39]

In February, 2018, Wired Magazine claimed Fogg's "Stanford lab created the formula to make technology addictive." The article indicates Fogg's lab...

"... was a toll booth for entrepreneurs and product designers on their way to Facebook and Google. Nir Eyal, the bestselling author of the book, Hooked, sat in lectures next to Ed Baker, who would later become the Head of Growth at both Facebook and Uber. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the founders of Instagram, worked on projects alongside Tristan Harris, the former Google Design Ethicist who now leads the Time Well Spent movement. Together, in Fogg's lab, they studied and developed the techniques to make our apps and gadgets addictive."[40]

In March, 2018, criticism of Fogg was joined by child and adolescent psychologists,[41][42] including Dr. Richard Freed[43][44][45] who characterizes the results of Fogg's work as "clandestine techniques that manipulate users to fulfill a profit motive"[46] continuing:

"... there are signs that Fogg is feeling the heat from recent scrutiny of the use of digital devices to alter behavior. His boast about Instagram, which was present on his website as late as January of 2018, has been removed. Fogg’s website also has lately undergone a substantial makeover, as he now seems to go out of his way to suggest his work has benevolent aims, commenting, 'I teach good people how behavior works so they can create products & services that benefit everyday people around the world.' Likewise, the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab website optimistically claims, 'Persuasive technologies can bring about positive changes in many domains, including health, business, safety, and education. We also believe that new advances in technology can help promote world peace in 30 years.'"[47]

Fogg responded to Freed's claims in a Medium essay, including retorting Freed "mischaracterized my work and the work in my Stanford research lab. [Dr. Freed] is misleading readers by portraying me as the bad guy."[48]

In June 2018, Vivek Wadhwa, Distinguished Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering,[49] dedicated a chapter of his book, "Your Happiness Has Been Hacked" to Fogg entitled "The Origins of Technology Addiction: B.J. Fogg and His Disciples":

"Some of Fogg's research findings may seem head-smackingly obvious. Importantly, Fogg is not a clear villain in this story... In recent interviews, Fogg has expressed misgivings that his findings are being used for profiteering and hoarding human attention in ways that are not good for people or society. But as with many other researchers (Einstein prominent among them), his work was easily enough incorporated into uses that far outstripped his initial ideas."[50]

In February, 2020, The Stanford Review highlighted in a feature article, "How Stanford Profits Off Addiction":

"... one of Stanford’s eccentric social scientists, B.J. Fogg, founded the Persuasive Technology Lab to research how tech products could alter people’s attitudes and behavior... The behavioral design hacks that came out of Stanford were irresponsible, even sinister, given their instrumental role in creating widespread phone addiction... Imagine if our professors were teaching students the perfect ratio of sugar and salt to make junk food addictive or our most famous alumni had founded major tobacco companies. The reality is not too dissimilar, and no less alarming."[51]


  • Persuasive Technology (2003)
  • Mobile Persuasion (with Dean Eckles; 2008)
  • Texting 4 Health (with Richard Adler; 2009)
  • Facebook For Parents (with Linda Fogg Phillips; 2010)
  • Tiny Habits (2020)


  1. ^ University, Stanford (2016-09-14). "BJ Fogg". Stanford News. Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  2. ^ Stanford, © Stanford University; Notice, California 94305 Copyright Complaints Trademark. "Behavior Design Lab | Human Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute". hstar.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2019-12-18.
  3. ^ Bowles, Nellie (2019-10-06). "Addicted to Screens? That's Really a You Problem". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-29.
  4. ^ Brigham Young University (1990). Commencement exercise programs, 1990-. Harold B. Lee Library.
  5. ^ "Commencement Program, April 23, 1992 , Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah".
  6. ^ Fogg, Brian J. (1997). Charismatic computers: creating more likable and persuasive interactive technologies by leveraging principles from social psychology /.
  7. ^ Fogg, B. J.; Euchner, Jim (2019-09-03). "Designing for Behavior Change—New Models and Moral Issues". Research-Technology Management. 62 (5): 14–19. doi:10.1080/08956308.2019.1638490. ISSN 0895-6308.
  8. ^ "Brian J. Fogg | Mormon Literature & Creative Arts Database | HBLL". mormonarts.lib.byu.edu. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  9. ^ "Brian J. Fogg | Mormon Literature & Creative Arts Database | HBLL". mormonarts.lib.byu.edu. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  10. ^ Fogg, B.J. (Summer 1992). "Glimmers and Glitches in Zion" (PDF).
  11. ^ amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Dialogue-Journal-Mormon-Thought-Number/dp/B0029XJOU8. Retrieved 2020-02-07. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ "Implosion | Mormon Literature & Creative Arts Database | HBLL". mormonarts.lib.byu.edu. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  13. ^ amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Sunstone-Magazine-Number-November-Issue/dp/B0160OBBO8/. Retrieved 2020-02-07. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ "Dad in the Kitchen | Mormon Literature & Creative Arts Database | HBLL". mormonarts.lib.byu.edu. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  15. ^ Fogg, Brian (1990-02-23). "Terms of Address Among Latter-day Saints". Deseret Language and Linguistic Society Symposium. 16 (1).
  16. ^ Fogg, BJ; Kessinger, Donette; Palmer, Brett; Pels, Kaatje (1991-03-08). "Names Mormons Use for Jesus: Contexts and Trends". Deseret Language and Linguistic Society Symposium. 17 (1).
  17. ^ "Persuasive Computers: Perspectives and Research Directions" (PDF).
  18. ^ "May 1999 Table of Contents | Communications of the ACM". cacm.acm.org. Retrieved 2019-02-05.
  19. ^ "Persuasive Technology - 1st Edition". elsevier.com. Retrieved 2019-12-27.
  20. ^ Fogg, B. J. (2015-01-21), BJ-Fogg-FTC-Fall2006, retrieved 2019-02-05
  21. ^ "Stanford Class' Facebook Application Crosses 1 Million Installs". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2019-12-31.
  22. ^ "Stanford Class' Facebook Application Crosses 1 Million Installs". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2019-12-31.
  23. ^ Helft, Miguel (2011-05-07). "The 'Facebook Class' Built Apps, and Fortunes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  24. ^ "Behaviour Model" (PDF).
  25. ^ "Behavior Model". behaviormodel. Retrieved 2019-12-27.
  26. ^ Sweatt, Lydia (2013-10-08). "Tiny Habits". SUCCESS. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  27. ^ TEDx Talks, Forget big change, start with a tiny habit: BJ Fogg at TEDxFremont, retrieved 2019-02-05
  28. ^ Tiny surprises for happiness and health | BJ Fogg, PhD | TEDxMaui, retrieved 2019-12-27
  29. ^ "Stanford Mobile Health 2012 – Stanford Mobile Health 2012". mobilehealth.org. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  30. ^ "Pacific Standard". Pacific Standard. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  31. ^ "TSJF – The Social Justice Foundation". Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  32. ^ "Bran Knowles". lancaster.ac.uk. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  33. ^ Larson, Jordan. "The Invisible, Manipulative Power of Persuasive Technology". Pacific Standard. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  34. ^ "About me". David H. Freedman. 2012-02-02. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  35. ^ Freedman, David H. (2015-09-04). "Improving Public Perception of Behavior Analysis". The Behavior Analyst. 39 (1): 89–95. doi:10.1007/s40614-015-0045-2. ISSN 0738-6729. PMC 4883502. PMID 27606184.
  36. ^ "The scientists who make apps addictive". 1843. 2016-10-20. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  37. ^ "The scientists who make apps addictive". 1843. 2016-10-20. Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  38. ^ Harris, Tristan (2019-02-12). "For anyone mistaken about @BJFogg's Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, I want to clarify yet again that BJ was one of the first to raise awareness on the topic of the Ethics of Persuasive Technology since 1997.https://twitter.com/tristanharris/status/979747113989939201 …". @tristanharris. Retrieved 2019-12-27. External link in |title= (help)
  39. ^ "A History of Persuasion: Part 3 | On the Media". WNYC Studios. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  40. ^ "Addicted to your Smartphone? This Formula is Why". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  41. ^ O-Brien, Lindsey Tanner and Matt. "Advocates condemn psych techniques used to keep kids online". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2019-12-20.
  42. ^ Tanner, Lindsey; O’Brien, Matt (2018-08-08). "Tech firms use psych techniques to keep kids online, advocates say". SFGate. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
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  47. ^ Freed, Richard (2018-04-27). "The Tech Industry's Psychological War on Kids". Medium. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  48. ^ Fogg, B. J. (2018-08-03). "The Facts: BJ Fogg & Persuasive Technology". Medium. Retrieved 2019-12-27.
  49. ^ "College of Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University". engineering.cmu.edu. Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  50. ^ Wadhwa, Vivek; Salkever, Alex (2018-06-26). Your Happiness Was Hacked: Why Tech Is Winning the Battle to Control Your Brain--and How to Fight Back. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. ISBN 978-1-5230-9586-5.
  51. ^ "How Stanford Profits Off Addiction". The Stanford Review. 2020-02-05. Retrieved 2020-02-07.

External links[edit]