Types of Tools

Mechanism Types versus Behavioral Categories crosswalk 

Exhibit 1. Mechanism Types versus Behavioral Categories. Mechanism types (inspired by Rhoads) are shown by their applicability to managing behaviors in each of our behavioral categories. For example, Cognitive Biases can be controlled by economic incentives, by structural controls and by contractual means. Insecurities, on the other hand, are best controlled by contract, e.g., the employment contract. Also shown are the varying levels of management effort required for each of the mechanism types.


Rhoads classifies behavior modification tools into three types (i.e., Economic, Structural and Contractual). They are for the most part autonomous: they act impersonally and automatically on everyone. For our purposes we add interventional tools for behaviors that are near or fully pathological. These are very personal.

Tool types are important in that we will often need a blend of types of tools to manage any particular behavior. Rhoads cites the example of government wanting to induce the greater use of driver seat belts among the citizenry. The behavioral tools used were Economic (insurance premiums), Structural (disabling ignition switches, education programs), and Contractual (mandatory seat belt laws).

Forcing individuals to act in a certain way as was the case with seat belts is conceptually easier. Individuals with the bent of an economist, engineer or lawyer revel in these moments. It’s one-size-fits-all+ thinking. Our goal is to design tools (work practices) that people want to perform. You can’t force creativity or passion for work. We need to address biases, insecurities and attitudes towards risk in a way that coincides with the individuals' own interests (or at least when it clashes the individual will have more important things to worry about).

Further Reading