1.5 Minutes on Influence: What We Can Learn from TikTok to Kick Negative Habits and Getting Things Done,

Happy 1,5 Minutes on Influence!

Here is your weekly dose of applying the psychology of influence
to positively impact choices and behaviours.

Looking forward to sharing insights with you!

Warm regards,



I  have to confess that I was a bit hesitant to write about this topic. This one-minute insight is about excessive use of mobile phones. I try to live life with a non-judgmental mindset, and I find it somewhat patronizing to have an opinion on how people spend their time.

After all, who am I to judge?

But then I came across a study that made me decide to write about this after all: it turned out to be not just a problem I noticed, but one that users experience themselves.

Even more importantly, it  led me to a more profound insight that goes beyond phone use, which I think could be of value to you.

Let’s start with the study. It revealed that a staggering 60% of Instagram users wish Instagram had never been invented, and 57% of TikTok users feel the same about TikTok. These aren’t just any opinions; these are from actual users, of whom there are currently 3.5 billion! So, we do have a massive problem on our hands.

What’s happening here from a behavioural psychology perspective?

The answer lies in the social norm. If all your friends are on these platforms, liking, sharing, tagging, and discovering, and you are not, you are in the out-group. And if there’s one thing we humans dislike, it is being left out. It’s hardwired in our brains that our survival rates are higher in groups. So, we tend to do what others are doing, even if it means holding each other trapped against our will.

And from this comes an important insight. Often, behavioural interventions are directed at the individual, but more and more of today’s challenges call for collective interventions. Only then can we counteract the powerful force of social belonging.

In Behavioural Design, we either make the desired behaviour easier, or the undesired behaviour harder. In another article I read, it mentioned the latter as a collective intervention: schools taking away phones from kids or using special phone sleeves that block all digital connections.

The result? Yes, some kids were not happy initially. But it was a collective intervention, and after a week or two, the kids themselves claimed to feel relieved. And some very positive new behaviours arose: kids started talking to each other more, playing together again, and cyberbullying decreased.

But what we can take away from this, beyond phone usage, is that we need to recognize that many of today’s challenges are deeply social and need solutions that involve everyone. Many attempts to solve these challenges fail because we often view them only from an individual perspective.

If you’ve ever tried deleting a social media app and found yourself back at it again after a few weeks, I hope you can now see that this was because it was an individual intervention. Your unconscious brain is longing for belonging.

Instead of focusing on personal solutions, we should therefore begin to see more issues as collective problems that require collective answers. In summary, this is a plea for giving more attention to system interventions.

Understanding the psychological barriers that keep groups stuck in certain behaviours might be the key to changing behaviours on a larger scale. Not just because we want to, but because people themselves are asking for change.


Did You Know

We have translated the most groundbreaking insights from the psychology of influence into practical methods and tools. We teach these in our two-day Behavioural Design Fundamentals Course. You can download the brochure here NL and UK. The training is available in both Dutch and English, and can be tailored for teams.


Prioritsation beats efficiency

Have you ever heard of the smaller task trap? Even if you haven’t, you probably have experienced it. When faced with multiple tasks, we tend to start with the easier one first. It sounds logical and maybe even motivating to get a first task out of the way, but we as humans are easily distracted and procrastination leads to cancellation. Hence, the trap.

Other research has revealed that if you ask people to do a large number of tasks, they tend to do less than when chunking the tasks.

So, what can we learn from this? One very effective way to get things done is to prioritize rather than simply trying to be more efficient. Each day, select three tasks that you aim to complete.

A commonly used strategy for selecting your priorities is the value/effort matrix. Tasks that are high value and low effort can be quick wins, while high value, high effort tasks can deliver significant strategic value. As for low value tasks, you can likely ignore them for now. This approach keeps your workload manageable, helps you focus, and prevents you from getting stuck in the smaller task trap.



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Until next week,

Astrid Groenewegen

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