BlackSpan Behaviors Preview

By the Stanford Behavior Wizard Team


An overview of BlackSpan behaviors and techniques for achieving them.

BlackSpan Behavior Overview

Black span behaviorIf you want someone to stop a behavior not forever but for a period of time, you are seeking a Black Span Behavior.

Examples include:

  • Health: Don’t eat dessert this week.
  • Environment: Don’t use the bathtub in the next month.
  • Commerce: Don’t buy anything in Farmville for 40 days.

A Black Span is a prolonged cessation of a behavior. The duration can be short, four hours, or long, 5 weeks. However, the Black Span is defined by its continuity. The Black DOT only occurs once, but the Black Span happens over a definite period of time.

The Black Span behavior is the stepping stone to the Black Path behavior, which is the desired location of countless public health projects, addiction interventions, and company initiatives.

Because the behaviors being stopped are often negative, and sometimes addictive, the Black Span is one of the most challenging behaviors to induce.

To achieve a Black Span Behavior, we must remove or diminish one of the variables in the Fogg Behavior Model.

  1. Remove the trigger: If the prompt telling the subject to “do this behavior now” is missing, it will not occur. Triggers can take many forms, ranging from links in email (click here) to internal signals from our body, like a grumbling stomach (eat now).
  2. Reduce the Motivation: A person must have sufficient Motivation when the Trigger occurs. If they are not motivated, the behavior will not occur. Three core motivators exist: Sensation (pleasure/pain), Anticipation (hope/fear), and Belonging (acceptance/rejection)
  3. Reduce the Ability:  The person must have the Ability to perform the behavior when the Trigger occurs. If the task is made harder to perform, or interfered with in some other manner, it is less likely to occur.

Our Resource Guide for Black Span Behaviors explains specific techniques and tools for achieving a long term cessation. It also highlights successful programs and online systems that exist for this purpose.

About Resource Guides

Our Stanford team created these Resources Guides to help people working on behavior change projects. We can make it easier for you to:

1. Learn about a specific type of behavior change

2. Create solutions for achieving that behavior

In the past, most designers and researchers guessed at solutions for changing behavior. And frankly most attempts failed. Today, rather than guessing at solutions, people who use our Resource Guides will have clear guidance.

Our Stanford team will continue to improve each of the 15 Resource Guides.  We welcome your input.

BJ Fogg, Ph.D. (
Director, Persuasive Tech Lab @ Stanford University



The Behavior Guides were created in 2010 and we are no longer updating or selling them.

There is still lots of useful information in these guides. If you’re interested in obtaining a specific guide, please email us ( and let us know in which guide you’re interested and why. We may be able to share a copy with you.

We hope you’ll also benefit from our more recent behavior design projects at:

–BJ Fogg, Ph.D. (
Director, Persuasive Tech Lab @ Stanford University


To view a sample guide, please fill out the form below.