Concepts I use every day: 6 sources of influence

Jason Yip
1 min readJul 11, 2021

The Fundamental Attribution Error refers to the tendency for people to overemphasise dispositional and personality explanations for behaviour and underemphasise situational explanations.

To address this, I like using the Six Sources of Influence model from VitalSmarts.

Personal, Social, and Structural; Motivation and Ability
  • Personal Motivation: what the individual wants
  • Personal Ability: what the individual knows how to do
  • Social Motivation: what friends, family, colleagues want the individual to do
  • Social Ability: what friends, family, colleagues can help the individual do
  • Structural Motivation: what incentives exist in the environment
  • Structural Ability: what is easy or not easy to do in the environment

Instead of just considering motivation, we should also consider ability; instead of just considering the individual, we should also consider the social and the structural.

The more of sources of influence are in play, the more likely behaviour change will occur.

The approach for high probability, persistent behaviour change is not “we just need to change their thinking” nor “we just need to make the right thing easy to do” but rather as many sources of influence as you can affect.


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Jason Yip

Senior Manager Product Engineering at Grainger. Extreme Programming, Agile, Lean guy. Ex-Spotify, ex-ThoughtWorks, ex-CruiseControl