Action, inaction, and actionability: Definitions and implications for communications and interventions to change behaviors

Dolores Albarracín, Aashna Sunderrajan, Wenhao Dai

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Persuasive communications and interventions are often designed to change behavior, as when religious ministers solicit financial contributions, campaign managers strive to obtain votes for a candidate, or marketers seek to increase purchase. To be successful, communications to change behaviors require a scientific understanding of the contents that maximize behavioral impact and the degree to which communications are successful in trying to induce actions or inactions. We begin this chapter with a discussion of action and inaction judgments that may affect one’s disposition towards behaviors, such as those recommended in persuasive communications. We then follow with the notion of actionability, or the degree to which a communication or intervention is likely to influence behavior. Specifically, we propose a framework to analyze the factors that make persuasive communications actionable. We define actionability as the property of enabling and motivating recipients to make behavioral decisions based on the intervention content. Actionability comprises the inclusion of behavioral recommendations, the relevance of those recommendations within the context of behavior execution, and the influence of the message on the recipient’s ability and motivation to carry out the recommendations. An intervention is actionable if it includes at least one behavioral recommendation, the recommendation is appropriate for the context, and the intervention promotes recipients’ willingness and ability to carry out the recommendation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNebraska Symposium on Motivation
Number of pages25
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameNebraska Symposium on Motivation
ISSN (Print)0146-7875


  • Action
  • Actionability
  • Attitude
  • Behavior change
  • Behavioral intervention
  • Health promotion
  • Inaction
  • Marketing
  • Persuasion
  • Persuasive message

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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