How to Make a Behavior Addictive: Zoë Chance at TEDxMillRiver

How to Make a Behavior Addictive: Zoë Chance at TEDxMillRiver

Translator: Mohand Habchi
Reviewer: Chryssa Takahashi I haven’t started any mass movement, I don’t have a mass movement to start but I can speak from experience. I’ll be talking with you today about a framework for understanding
things that create addictive behaviors. And it’s not my academic credentials
that qualify me to share this with you, it’s my personal experience as an addict. And I’m coming clean today
telling this story for the very first time and its raw ugly detail. In March of 2012, winter was ending, or so I thought, and the winter of my discontent
was beginning, when I purchased a device
that would slowly begin to ruin my life. And my husband is right here and he is smiling
because he lived through this with me. The device that I purchased
was a pedometer. You think, “A pedometer!” but some of you are thinking,
“I have that pedometer.” This wasn’t just any pedometer,
this was the Striiv. They market it as personal trainer
in your pocket. No. It’s Satan in your pocket, (Laughter) tempting you and tempting you to walk,
and tempting you to walk. So you know how you’re supposed
to reach 10,000 steps a day as an ideal goal for living
a healthy life and being a healthy person? How many of you have tried and measured,
try to reach 10,000 a day? It’s hard. Right. This is not trivial. 10,000 steps is 5 miles. When I was using the Striiv,
I was going 24,000 steps a day. You do the math. I’m not a distance runner,
and if you’re walking the only way that you can reach
10,000 steps a day is by not stopping. So that’s what I did. I would arrive at work,
I would grab an article, anything that I didn’t need to be
at the computer to do, and I would pace, down the corridor,
outside my office. I would come home, and while I was eating, or while I was reading, or while I was eating
and reading at the same time, or while my husband
was trying to talk to me, I would be going in the circuit between the living room,
the kitchen and the dining room, and the living room,
the kitchen and the dining room, My marriage was deteriorating. I spent a little more time
with my daughter, she was three at the time, and I only spent time with her because she was willing
to sit down with me on my lap and fool with the freaking pedometer
with me. (Laughter) So the only people
that I was getting closer to at this point in time, were my colleague Ernest,
who also had a Striiv, so we could set challenges
and we could compete with each other, and we could bond over it, and with the community
of freaks on the internet, (Laughter) who were addicts like me. I was creating spreadsheets to optimize and track – not my exercising, but my virtual transactions
in a virtual world that exists in our Striiv device. You know the game Farmville, it’s that really boring game
where nothing happens but it’s so addictive that it helped
cause the US economic collapse. (Laughter) Right? Those developers
developed a game inside Striiv, it’s called My Land, nothing happens except
that plants grow and buildings get built and nothing happens. But this game is so addictive
that you just can’t stop. I would say the last straw, was one night, it was midnight and I was brushing my teeth,
I was getting ready for bed and on the Striiv
this pop up challenge showed up. And these things surprise, you don’t know
when they’re going to happen. This pop up challenge comes
and it says we will you triple the points if you just climb twenty stairs. And that’s not a lot, two flights of stairs
you can do it probably in a minute. So no problem, I go down to the basement, climbed twenty stairs. I don’t have two flights of stairs
in my basement but you know up and down like a treadmill, but I finish it and then
another challenge pops up, and it says, “Great, how about 40 steps
and we’ll triple the points again.” and these are the points you can use
in that crazy virtual world, so, “Yes, of course, it’s a good deal,
it’s a good exchange rate.” Four more flights of stairs – A behavioral economist apparently. So, four more flights of stairs, and there’re more challenges
and even without the challenges I found that I can’t stop. And between midnight
and two o’clock in the morning, two hours that I’d planned on sleeping I am going likea nutcase
up and down the stairs in my basement, 2,000 stairs I climbed. I hurt my neck, and my neck is injured, because my head, my stupid head is bouncing up down like this. (Laughter) Right. And at this time I had become so neurotic that I was spending hours a day
counting my steps, and I found that even when
I wasn’t moving, I was still counting. The blessing of the stairs episode
was the neck injury. When the neck injury happened,
I had to take a break from exercising, which allowed me to take a break
from the Striiv, and I finally acknowledged what
my husband had been saying for a while, that I had a problem. (Laughter) I would have gone
for a twelve-step program but that would have seemed
like another challenge. (Laughter) So the only option was to go cold turkey. And at this point
I thought it was my problem. So I gave this Striiv to my sister. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and we talk on the phone, and we’re
communicating with each other, she’s loves it, she’s so happy,
it’s a wonderful present, and I do notice that many of the times
that we talk to each other she’s walking around outside. It’s seems like a good thing
until my mom calls me and she tells that my sister Mika
has been walking around outside in Cambridge Massachusetts,
which many of you know is and urban area,
in the middle of the night, and she’s walking for miles. She’s taking her life
into her own hands when she does this. You guys other aren’t any
streetwalkers in Cambridge, it’s mostly college kids, but it is urban, and the only women who were
walking around at night for miles are crazy. (Laughter) And she’s crazy. She’s possessed by Satan in her pocket. I found out recently how many times
the average Striiv user checks their device. And I am just curious, do you have pedometer,
have you had one? No. If you had one, how many times
do you think you might check it in a day or week? Man: Every five minutes.
Zoë C: Every five minutes. So you would be like me.
You would be totally insane. And what I learned,
is that despite being totally insane, we’re not alone. The average Striiv user,
the average one – not the crazy one, checks their device 29 times a day. What is it about this machine
that makes it so compelling, what is it that΄s so tempting. And what I want to share with you,
is a framework, that is the six human needs. And this is a framework that we shared,
first with me by Tony Robbins, who’s pulled these needs together, but it’s based on solid motivational
research in each of these areas. And Tony Robbins’ claim, is that any behavior that meets
at least three of these six needs is going to become an addiction
if it meets those needs in a powerful way. I am a scientist
and this is the kind of claim that can’t be empirically validated so I can’t go out and test it. But you can test it in your own life
and see if this works for you. The first of the human need… I’ll share how each of these fits
with Striiv as we go through. The first human need is for significance. And this is the desire to feel
that we are important, that we matter. It’s the ego. This is one of the key drivers
for human life, human behavior, and in a Striiv machine
as I shared with you already, first of all,
you’re completing challenges. So you’re feeling powerful,
you’re kicking ass, and also you have this virtual world
where you are playing God. It’s the garden of Eden
and a whole world depends on you. It’s powerfully significant. There is also certainty. This is another key driver
of human behavior, and the need for certainty
is wrapped up in the need for security. All species have the need
to feel safe and secure and we want to know
that our expectations about the world are likely to be met,
at least much of the time. In a Striiv device you have certainty that when you take one step,
you will get one point, if you’re walking. If you’re going up stairs you get three.
If you’re running you get five. You know when you wake up that when you climb 374 stairs you will get an award
called the Statue of Liberty, and you know what the little picture
is going to look like. Paradoxically, the third human need
is uncertainty. And this is our need for sense of variety
and surprise and spice in life. If you are a rat and you get food pellets
by pressing a lever, when it’s unpredictible
how much and when you’ll get food, you are going to press
that lever like crazy. This is also why we buy lottery tickets. We know that it is stupid, but sometimes we win,
and we don’t know when, and we don’t know
how much we are going to win. And with Striiv, as I was sharing with you there’re these unpredictible
little pop up challenges that are so tempting,
you can’t just possibly resist. The forth human need
is our need for connection. And this is the need that ensures
our survival as a species. It’s what allows us and encourages us and even forces us to form social groups. It’s how we make babies. It’s why we take care of our babies. And I told you that
when I was using this Striiv my family life was falling apart but I was feeling connected
to these other crazy people. I was feeling connected
to my friend Ernest. It’s maybe like a druggy
who feels connected to their dealer. The final human need
is the need for growth. This is the need to feel
that we’re moving forward, that we’re becoming something. Research on motivation in organizations finds that the most powerful
predictor of employee engagement is a sense of progress. That whatever job you’re doing, if you feel like
you’re making progress from day to day, you’re going to be excited about your job. And when you have a pedometer, even if it’s not a cool one like Striiv, you see the numbers flipping
as you’re walking. Right! And this Striiv also
has adaptive benchmarks. So you start out getting prizes
at 10,000 steps, but then when you beat your record
it goes up to 24,000. There’s a lot of growth you can experience and you’re also experiencing
growth and changes in your physical body, most of them being good,
maybe not all of them so much. With this framework of six human needs, I think this is a plausible explanation for why a device like Striiv
can be so addictive. And I think it’s also possible that we could predict
which behaviors would spread and which behaviors will not. Let’s take a different example
within a Striiv. Let’s take flash mobs. So a flash mob is from all appearances kind of like
a spontaneously generated mass movement. A flash mob is a group of people,
who organize on the internet, convene at a particular location, do something bizarre
and usually pointless and then disperse. To me, in theory, that doesn’t sound
like an idea worth spreading. But in practice it spread like wildfire. The first flash mob
happened in February 2003, and by 2004 flash mob
was in the Oxford English dictionary. At this point
the American Bar Association, which is not the vanguard of cool they have a whole page on their website
dedicated to flash mob law. (Laughter) And the first flash mob
was completely lame. I think! 200 people,
convened in a department store, to look at a particular rug and say they were trying to buy a love rug
for their group apartment. (Laughter) But they got cooler. So you’ve seen them on the internet –
if you haven’t participated in one, there’s lot of singing and dancing, synchronize movement, zombie races – who doesn’t love that, pillow fights with five thousand people. In Grand Central Station
you have 200 people walking around going about their business and all of the sudden all of them freeze, for five seconds and then go about their business
as if nothing happened. (Laughter) Flash mobs are spreading
all across the world, videos are going viral. At this point, I think it’s kind of disturbing
and wrong for some reason, but you can even hire a company
to put on flash mob for you. (Laughter) So, what is it about flash mobs that has made them go viral? And looking at the six human needs again let’s think about it. So need for significance. You’re the center of attention. And I am taking in a perspective
of the flash mober, which is another term in the dictionary. You’re meeting your need for significance because you get to be
the center of attention. Everybody is looking at you
and you’re creating an experience that they’re going to remember and maybe other people
are going to relive this experience and even watch you online. You’re meeting a need for certainty,
interestingly, because even though
you’re doing something pretty weird, you’re doing it in a group. A flash mob performance
is an ensemble piece, and there’s no individual judgment
of you as a person. So you can still feel safe and secure. You’re meeting your need for uncertainty, because as we said variety
it’s the spice of life, you’re doing something
completely different but also this is a theatrical performance with no dress rehearsal,
no tech rehearsal, and no guarantee of what’s going
to happen when you get there. You’re meeting a need for connection, because group activities
and especially synchronized movements they create rapport. So when you’re coming together
in a flash mob with other people it’s as if you become this group entity. And you can also be meeting
your need for growth, if you are a person who values,
as part of your development, being someone who does things
that are fun, interesting and spontaneous. You’re creating stories that you can share
potentially even with your grand children. So flash mobs from this perspective, not so crazy that it became so popular.
Right? Let’s think about something else that’s much more obvious
that it would be a good thing. Wearing a motorcycle helmet
when you ride your motorcycle. No downside, obviously it’s a good idea. Right. But look at these needs
and which one of them is at meeting. Only certainty,
which is the need for security. There’s nothing else
that the motorcycle helmet is meeting and if you think about it, certainty and security
is not the need you’re trying to meet when you’re riding a motorcycle. Right? So not a contagious behavior,
and this is why we have to regulate it. My challenge to you, as you leave here
and as you think about these talks that you’ve seen here today, is that you consider taking this framework and using this as a way
that you could develop your own habit, or you could make your behavior
that you care about more addictive, help your ideas spread. I would love to hear about it. Thank you so much for listening. And I hope that
you will go forth from here, and prosper and succeed as you spread
awesomeness around the globe. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)


  1. This video is great.
    I would've loved if it contained an example of using this framework in a good behavior that is not addictive. I guess the job is left for one's creativity .

  2. I find her incredibly attractive, and I'm not even into women or close to half her age. Is that normal?

  3. I dont think watching this TED was a waste of time. It has entertained me for almost 20 minutes… but I was just wondering the whole point of this talk…. Was is to induce me to buy a striiv??

  4. I feel like u can use these needs on a guy to make him addicted to u…
    1. EGO. Make him feel important and respect him and thats what youll get too
    2. CERTANCY. make him able to trust u and always be there for him as in taking care of him or being home waiting for him
    3. INCERTANCY. You can make him suprises or go somewhere or even more better…Suprise Sex
    4. CONNECTION. well make him comfortable to talk to you and be happy to be with you
    5. GROWTH. Give him smiles and show that your happy to be with him (well…if u are) so that he knows this relationship is a growth.


  5. I think TED is scraping the bottom of the barrel, there is Monica whose path to knowledge was ONE b.j., and theres some homeless guy talking about how to live

  6. Facebook is addictive like that. I have a cousin that is addicted on posting photos of herself to collect likes. This is kind of an important accomplishment to her.

  7. The mentioned Flash mobbing issue i consider to be an updating of the situationalist performative anarchistic Kind of activities of the 60s generated by the french philosopher guy debord

  8. 0:30 Fascinating, I never would have expected a well-dressed suburbanite career-minded woman to put aside her prejudice and talk so frankly about her struggles with addiction. Usually people like her are so uptight and dismissive about the hardships that real people face and — OH FOR FUCK SAKE, IT'S A TALK ABOUT HER FUCKING FITNESS DEVICE.

  9. Yeah, she made a mistake, give it a break, more importantly, I find this needs are good but should be more specific, I would say human Ego has 6 needs, because the way it's said, its like we really need all this stuff, if the biology of the being isn't fufilled, death is certain… Ego too much down brings depression, but usually, the brain motivates you up again, unless the depression is caused by a external factor, point being. , I would say it like this: 6 needs for a healthy brain.

  10. I think part of the reason why people are getting "crazy", is the following: Most people have a goal, like "I want to be a doctor", so, they spent all the time studying and working to fufill that dream, eventually, they get there, an now what? My dream is done… They feel happy at first, but with time, they feel emptyness, so they search for hobbies, but since all their lifes they were unable to relax, they do as always, they have to be the BEST on that too, and thats create unhealthy addiction. Just do a hobby without challenge or things like that, learn something at a healthy rate, 2 hours a day, nice and easy, enough to give you challenge and keep you motivated, but at the same time, that doesn't drive you crazy. For example: Music, Painting, Exercise (without crazy machines), Learn to fix your car, Farming, Planting, so many hobbies…. If you keep learning skills, you'll never feel empty. XD

  11. 7:38 her story with pedometer is just the similar one that everyone has with mobile phone. reason? fulfilling 3 out 6 needs become an addiction
    ego, feeling important, significant
    9:03 certainty,feel safe and certain
    uncertainty, linking to surprise, lottery or random challenges/rewards
    connection community
    growth making a progress

    flash mub –快闪 different, surprise,

    I am trying to employ this framework to bulid habits of getting up early

  12. Two cents about the pedometer.
    The Striiv Play works ~ 2 months before it fails to function (great variation, from 1 – 6 months in our lab experiences). Thus, this pedometer is excellent for identifying neurosis relatively quickly 🙂 but not for tracking activity levels beyond ~8 weeks.

  13. Thanks Zoe, It is like you left us to "Contribute" to the talk by trying to figure out what the sixth was….. I think it's just perfect the way it worked out. I love the way you talk x.

  14. I believe Zoe specifically left out the sixth 'human need', because, ironically, it demands that somebody else make a contribution.

  15. It's more like "what makes a behavious addictive" !! Disappointing in my opinion .. This is just not what I expected to see ! Just choose video titles more wisely please

  16. This is one of the most intelligent TED-talks I have seen. I have had many of the same realizations as you, but with my dancing. Your analysis of flash mobs also describes how the applications for creative educations and the attractiveness of freelance (uncertain) work is more attractive than any time before! But I contrary I think that the dance profession is mostly healthy and that what is sad, is how many people are addicted to sitting, passive activities where they work in offices (sitting around) and then sits around even more at home, watching series and movies on Netflix etc to feel relaxed and mentally "fed". While, entertainment-disabilization of people works, because of excactly the needs that you describe here.
    My body on the other hand, hasbecome so addicted to movement, that when I sit on my butt in front of a computer, my bones start aching. It makes me realize that I love what I do, but also, how hard it must be for some people to get to the gym, to go for a walk, even just a few more steps than usual – they are addicted to what they feel when they are in front of their computers and their tv. Its so sad. . .
    Our lives are becoming much like in the movie THX 1138..

  17. Smh on this one… 10,000 steps is not as much as she makes it seem. I have a Jawbone pedometer and all it takes is an intentional 30 minute brisk walk and a couple of 10 minute walks with my dogs. That's not unreasonable.
    I am quite disappointed in this talk. I was expecting something completely different based on the title.

  18. This lady is getting a Ph.D from Harvard, but her "research" came from a guy who sells CDs via infomercials?!

  19. excellent talk
    the way she introduced her former addiction and also how basic human needs can be turn around to help us, it´s just brilliant!
    thanks a lot

  20. I am looking at this thinking,
    How can I make the not fun parts of life Addictive.
    Taking out the Trash, Doing the Dishes, studying.

    I think im going to look at everything i avoid doing and try to see how i can use these 6 needs to make the behaviour addictive,
    so i can get them done.

    I took notes so here is list of the human need that make a behaviour addictive|

    How to make a Behaviour Addictive
    By meeting at least 3 of thes 6 needs we have as Humans
    1)Significance-The desire to feel that we are important (the Ego)
    2)Certainty-(the need for Security) the feeling that youre belief in the world will be met much of the time.
    3)Uncertainty-The need for variey and surprise and spice in our life
    4)Connection- Our need for Connection (this ensures our survival as a species)
    5)Growth-The need to feel like were growing, were becoming something
    If you feel like youre making progress.
    6)Contribution- the feeling that you are contributing something to the world and myself (She didnt mention it in the lecture, you can read it in her comments here.

    I think ill try coming back in a week and see if this has helped me to accomplish more.

    Thanks Zoe,

    Shmuel Rose

  21. Since when is 10k steps a lot? I do that everyday as a fatass and half the time I don't try. Usually walk about 2-3 miles at work and swing by the park for a 2-3 mile walk around the trail after work, she acts like she was training for the damn olympics or something. Stupid talk that didn't accomplish anything but regurgitated Tony Robbins lines and misleading title. Disliked.

  22. any behavior that meets following needs in a powerful way will make that behavior addictive:
    1) significance (EGO)
    2) certainty (security)
    3) uncertainty (variety, surprise, spice in life)
    4) connection (survival)
    5) growth
    6) contribution

  23. She says Tony Robbins gave her some "solid motivational research". Eight minutes of a 17 minute talk about her pedometer-addiction I am never going to back. Ever.

  24. now I can make sense of so many completely stupid,boring activities I see people doing,who themselves acknowledge it's boring,when asked.

  25. She introduced a concept called Gamification. The games or activities which drive us crazy use gamification extremely well.

  26. This really is one of the best videos I've ever seen on YouTube. I love how you broke down the psychology of what motivates us. Thanks Zoe!

  27. All these "talks" are always negative. There should be more talk focusing on positive addictions and how to inculcate those. Too much negativity is bad for everyone.

  28. Newspapers, univercities and corporations with $200 mil brands all fall for a nefarious, smart looking foggy talking new age awsomeness.

  29. It's disturbing that game developers and device makers use their position to create addiction in consumers. It's unethical. I guess we've decided it's ok since we allow tobacco and alcohol sales but is it really a "sale" once it becomes the only means of satisfaction for an addict? That's why the existence of "junk food" is abhorrent to me. As it is we require food to survive. To then add the fat and grease that triggers addiction on top of need and then make it cheap with virtually zero nutritional value yet packed with plenty of shit that will kill you like LOADS of sugar and shit never created by nature, who the hell comes up with this? How much do they love money to mass produce death sentences to Americans? Companies like MacDonalds, Coke, Hostess, the ones breeding legless, beakless chickens crammed into cages and injected full of hormones (the means of production alone should really tell you something) they should be outlawed. IDK freedom of choice, vs addiction, vs whatever it's just sad. Just gotta hope people get woke and keep their money far away from those evil companies that use every tool avail to use their products to spread death and sickness rather than meet ANY human need.

  30. This is an intelligent account of a woman who was transformed into a hamster in a wheel. More credit to her for coming clean.

  31. Humans walk at an average pace of about 3 miles per hour. I'll let you do the math, but walking 5 miles a day doesn't mean "walking all day long."

  32. That was not the first flash mob.
    Not even first on internet

    from Kids all dropping their pens at same time TO people walking into establishments tjat discriminate and taking seats at the counter "FlashMob" is a type of activity that has long been a tradition in Theatre of spontaneous performance as promotion but also as protest. Even boycotting and picketing are apart of being flash mob.

    But what do I know two-time time give us Book World Record participant and I'm old enough to remember flash mobs pre-internet. In the 1980s rock musicians held zombie walks here in Seattle I was there. My father born in the 1930s talked about students in Germany in the fifties doing a version of this and how his army Buddies in the late forties did it.

  33. after watching this i think i’m going to buy a fitness watch to keep exercising , because i don’t know english really so what i understand that her fitness watch make her walk more and that’s a good thing but see it 29 times a day a bad thing

  34. This title is disappointingly clickbait-y. This isn't a talk about "how to make a behavior addictive," as one might expect upon reading the title, it's merely explaining why certain behaviors tend to be addictive and what those addictive elements are. Misleading

  35. Before buying on gearbest, know that it's thieves.
    They do not repay,
    on google search for "Thieves Gearbest".

  36. “Crazy.” Not so professional. Not so compassionate. Hard to give this person any credence. Let’s not even start with her reference to Tony Robbins, that great scientist. This person calls itself a scientist ??? So hard not to hate lightweight, bigots.

  37. 1. Take away all real power from the individual. A world so stacked against them, and a news media that only emphasizes the negative events continually for decades, until they are all convinced they are helpless and desperate to survive economically. Rip away their locus of control. 2. Give them an imaginary world where they have total control, and it's calm. 3. Laugh all the way to the bank as the peons continue to make you richer – best of all, in a system they no longer even seek to change. Problem solved.

  38. Yu-Kai Chow (also TED speaker) has a book on gamification called Octalysis that is built on the similar framework.
    It covers 8 sides of motivation (including the 6 from this video). It was a great read for me. After I read it I continued with the books like Thinking fast and slow, Drive, Predictably Irrational, Hooked, Psychology of influence. Whole new world has opened to me since.

  39. I'm a hospital porter in Manchester, England. In work, I walk 22, 000 steps before 1pm… six days a week. I get paid to keep fit! 😆😆

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