Persuade visitors based on the 'fresh start' effect

Neuro Usability Insight #12

According to the fresh-start effect, people are more likely to take action towards a goal after temporal landmarks that represent new beginnings.

– Milkman


For instance, gym attendance has been shown to be highest early in the year. But importantly also early in the month and week, as well as shortly following holidays and people’s birthdays. These times are seen as a fresh start and goals are pursued more enthusiastically during (and shortly following) these times.


People tend to see their past and current selves as separate, with their past self viewed in such a way that flatters their current self (i.e. as worse than their current selves). New beginnings can make this division between the past and current self more prominent and might even inspire self-improvement. For a consistent self image, a current self that is better than a past self also necessitates decision-making that is better than that from the past, meaning that people often try to behave more in line with their goals than they did before.

How to apply?

  • Understand your users’ aspirational behaviors. How do they want to improve themselves? Do their aspirations change depending on the time of year? It can help to think of the larger goal first, followed by behaviors associated with achieving that goal. For example, a goal might be to get finances in order. An aspirational behavior for that goal could be to commit to saving $X per month for retirement.
  • Connect your users’ motivations to what your company offers. How does your organization help users pursue their goals? Remember that goals (and associated behaviors) exist in a range of contexts, such as physical health, educational, professional, and interpersonal goals. In which of those areas can your organization make a difference?
  • Pair your message with a temporal landmark. ​Promote just before and after the beginning of a new year, month or week and on their birthday or after the holiday season. Highlighting a new beginning reminds people that time has passed; they can start fresh and work towards their goals.


body and fit neuro usability example 12

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