The Power of Mechanisms in Predicting Human Behavior


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 13, 2023

3 min read


The Power of Mechanisms in Predicting Human Behavior


In our quest to bring about positive change, we often rely on good intentions. However, as Nick Foy rightly points out, good intentions alone are not enough. We need effective mechanisms to turn our intentions into action. This concept holds true not only in our personal lives but also in understanding human behavior. Recent research conducted by Northeastern University reveals that human behavior is surprisingly predictable, with a predictability rate of 93 percent. By exploring the connection between good intentions and mechanisms, and delving into the predictability of human behavior, we can gain valuable insights into how to navigate the complexities of our world.

The Power of Mechanisms:

Foy emphasizes that good intentions without mechanisms are futile. A mechanism consists of four crucial elements: process, tool, adoption, and audit. These components work together to ensure that our intentions are translated into tangible outcomes. Without a well-defined process, a suitable tool, proper adoption, and regular auditing, our intentions remain mere aspirations. By implementing mechanisms, we create a structured framework that drives action and leads to meaningful results.

Predictability of Human Behavior:

The groundbreaking research conducted by Professor Albert-László Barabási and his team sheds light on the predictability of human behavior. Their study focused on analyzing the mobility patterns of anonymous cell-phone users. Surprisingly, they found that human behavior is 93 percent predictable. This means that we can accurately foresee an individual's future whereabouts in the next hour based on their previous trajectory.

The study also revealed that predictability remains consistent across various factors such as travel distances, age, gender, language groups, population density, and urban versus rural locations. Regardless of these variables, individuals tend to follow a simple pattern and have a strong tendency to return to locations they have visited before. This finding challenges the notion that human behavior is largely spontaneous and unpredictable. Instead, it suggests that there is a hidden order and regularity in our actions.

Connecting Good Intentions and Predictability:

When we consider the connection between good intentions and the predictability of human behavior, we find an intriguing parallel. Just as good intentions alone are insufficient, the spontaneous and unpredictable nature of human behavior is also largely absent. Both scenarios require the presence of mechanisms to bring about meaningful change and accurate predictions.

Insights and Unique Ideas:

The notion that human behavior is highly predictable may seem obvious at first, but its implications are fascinating. By understanding the patterns and tendencies that govern our actions, we can gain insights into various aspects of society, such as urban planning, transportation, and even marketing. Predictability opens up opportunities for more efficient resource allocation, improved decision-making, and better overall outcomes.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Implement mechanisms: To turn your good intentions into action, establish clear processes, utilize suitable tools, encourage adoption, and regularly audit your progress. This structured approach will ensure that your intentions have a tangible impact.
  • 2. Embrace predictability: Recognize that human behavior is, to a large extent, predictable. Utilize this knowledge to make informed decisions, tailor your strategies, and anticipate future outcomes. By embracing predictability, you can navigate challenges more effectively.
  • 3. Seek patterns and tendencies: Take the time to observe and analyze the patterns and tendencies in your own behavior and those around you. By understanding the regularities that govern our actions, you can identify opportunities for growth, make better predictions, and enhance your decision-making.


Good intentions are merely the starting point for meaningful change. To truly make a difference, we must employ effective mechanisms that turn our intentions into action. Similarly, the predictability of human behavior challenges the notion of spontaneity and provides us with valuable insights into various aspects of our lives. By embracing mechanisms and recognizing the predictability of human behavior, we can navigate the complexities of our world with greater clarity and purpose.

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