HOOKED: How to build habit-forming products by Nir Eyal with Ryan Hoover

Genres: Psychology, Business, Behavioral Economics, Behavioral Science, Design

Rating: 3/5

Recommend to: Product managers, Designers, Marketers, Start-up founders, Entrepreneurs, People in sales.

Number of pages: 256 pages


This book was on my to read list a long time and I was really looking forward to reading it. I highly recommend it to everyone who is just getting into neuromarketing, neuroscience or behavioral economics in general. Take you time reading it and think about how you would implement each step into your business.  I know I will have to reread Hooked soon. But if you have already read some books and spend some time studying behavioral economics you might find the book repetitive. What I mean by this is that the author at least from my point of view summarizes what a lot of other authors already wrote before him and repackaged it in his “Hook model”. But then again if you read about behavioral economics for the first time or you are looking for a new angle on the topic it’s actually a great book.

In general I loved that the book contained examples/cases after the theory part, but I would love to read more about each phase of the hook model in each case. I guess the author needed to leave something out for his workshops.

The concept of the hook model are the four stages which systematically take advantage of how we think and react. So the first stage of the hook model are the triggers – which are internal or external, and they of course invoke in us an action. Which is the next stage of the hook model and for this stage to be an effective one it has to be as simple as possible, or it has to feel natural to the target person. Otherwise there is no chance a habit will form and your product/service will not catch on. The third stage is a reward for the action our target person made. The reward has to be variable, so the target person will not know what he/she will get, they just know they will get something and that builds anticipation (hooking them). The final phase in the hook model is the investment of the target person. For the habit to be formed our target person has to invest time and effort for them to feel ownership of the product or service they just used. An excellent example of this is IKEA (the IKEA effect), where customers have to assemble their bought furniture by themselves and in doing so they value it more. And now that you have finished the first “circle” of the hook model just repeat it step by step until your target person is hooked.

Are you still not sure if this book is right for you… I recommend you go through my notes (below) and then decide if you want to read it.


  • Cognitive psychologists define habit as “Automatic behaviors triggered by situational cues.”
  • The products and services we use habitually alter our everyday behavior, just as their designers intended. Our actions have been engineered.
  • Companies increasingly find that their economic value is a function of the strength of the habits they create.
  • The brain automatically deduce that if the decision was a good one yesterday, then it is a safe bet again today and the actions become a routine.
  • Fostering consumer habits is an effective way to increase the value of a company by driving higher customer lifetime value. User habits increase how long and how frequently customers use a product.
  • Products that change customer routines are less susceptible to attacks from other companies.
  • The habits you’ve most recently acquired are also the ones most likely to go soonest. People rarely change their habits for long.
  • When we change our routines, neural pathways remain etched in our brains, ready to be reactivated when we lose focus.
  • Behavior that occurs with enough frequency and perceived utility enters the habit zone, making it a default behavior. If either of these two factors falls short it is less likely the desired behavior will become a habit.
  • A habit is when not doing an action causes a bit of pain / itch.
  • Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain are two key motivators in all species.
  • New habits need a foundation upon which to build. Triggers provide the basis for sustained behavior change – habits are built like pearls in an oyster.
  • Too many choices or irrelevant options can cause hesitation, confusion, or worse – abandonment. Reducing the thinking required to take the next action increases the likelihood of the desired behavior occurring unconsciously.
  • When a product becomes tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion, or a preexisting routine, it leverages an internal trigger.
  • Emotions, particularly negative ones, are powerful internal triggers and greatly influence our daily routines.
  • When creating a product the company must first identify the particular frustration or pain point in emotional terms, rather than product features.
  • When creating your product/service focus on what people actually do rather than what they wish they did. Ask yourself what pain their current habits solve and what the user might be feeling right before one of these actions.
  • If you want to build a product that is relevant to folks, you need to put yourself in their shoes and you need to write a story from their side. Write user narratives.
  • Ask the question WHY until you get to an emotion! usually it’s the 5th WHY.
  • External triggers tell the user what to do next by placing information within the user’s environment. Internal triggers tell the users what to do next through associations stored in the user’s memory.
  • To initiate action doing must be easier than thinking. The more effort – either physical or mental – required to perform the desire action, the less likely it is to occur.
  • Three ingredients are required to initiate any and all behaviors: The user must have sufficient motivation. The user must have the ability to complete the desired action. And triggers must be present to activate the behavior.
  • All humans are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain, to seek hope and avoid fear, to seek social acceptance and avoid rejection.
  • Understand the reason why people use a product or service. Next lay out the steps the customer must take to get the job done, and then remove steps until you reach the simplest possible process.
  • Without a clear trigger and sufficient motivation there will be no behavior, and less chance of a behavior change.
  • Influencing behavior by reducing the effort required to perform an action is more effective than increasing someone’s desire to do it.
  • A study showed that a product can decrease in perceived value if it starts off as scarce and becomes abundant.
  • When using punch cards to encourage repeat business try giving out cards with some progress. People will feel a bigger want and need to fill the card and get the reward.
  • What draws us to act is not the sensation we receive from the reward itself, but the need to alleviate the craving for that reward.
  • We are like children in that once we figure out what will happen next, we become less excited by the experience. To hold our attention a product must have an ongoing degree of novelty.
  • Our brains are adapted to seek rewards that make us feel accepted, attractive, important, and included.
  • The need to feel social connectedness shapes our values and drives much of how we spend our time.
  • People who observe someone being rewarded for a particular behavior are more likely to alter their own beliefs and subsequent actions.
  • Rewards must fit into the narrative of why the product is used and align with the user’s internal triggers and motivations.
  • Telling people they are free to choose disarms their instinctive rejection of being told what to do.
  • Too many companies build their products betting users will do what they make them do instead of letting them do what they want to do.
  • To change behavior, products must ensure the users feel in control.
  • The more users invest time and effort into a product or service, the more they value it.
  • Studies reveal that our past is an excellent predictor of our future.
  • The timing of asking for user investment is critically important. Ask for investment after users have received variable rewards.
  • Reputation (in profiles) makes users, both buyers and sellers, more likely to stick with whichever service they have invested their efforts in to maintain a high-quality score.
  • Once users have invested the effort to acquire a skill, they are less likely to switch to a competing product.
  • Habit-forming technologies leverage the user’s past behavior to initiate an external trigger in the future.
  • The humble brag – disclosing information about the self (what you did, read, have been, achieved,…) is intrinsically rewarding. This act engages neural and cognitive mechanisms associated with reward.
  • When creating a habit-forming product ask yourself “what problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?”
  • Once you have built a product do a habit testing. First dig into the data to identify how people are using the product. Study the actions and paths taken by devoted users. Finally modify the product to influence more users to follow the same path as your habitual users.

The 5 fundamental question to ask yourself to build effective hooks:

  1. What do users really want? What pain is your product relieving? (Internal triggers)
  2. What brings users to your service? (External triggers)
  3. What is the simplest action users take in anticipation of reward, and how can you simplify your product to make this action easier (action)
  4. Are users fulfilled by the reward yet wanting more? (Variable reward)
  5. What “bit of work” do users invest in your product? Does it load the next trigger and store value to impreve the product with use (investment)


martin Lindstrom Brandwashed
The Branded Mind by Erik du Plessis
Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
Thinking Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman



Thank you for your time. I hope you have found this book review helpful. Talk to you in the comment section.

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