CEO @ Cognitive, Founder @ The Behavior Institute

I’ve spent the last decade helping teams leverage behavioral science to build better products in areas like medication adherence, voter turnout, retirement savings, or app engagement. These were usually either product leadership roles or strategic advisory roles, including at least 18 startups that went on to exit, along with bigger tech companies like Salesforce and Illumina.

I’ve also worked on behavior change and product design with public sector or non-profit teams like UCSF, Harvard Medical, the AARP, and the Obamacare digital team. This work has driven significant outcomes or tech innovations covered in peer-reviewed journals like the Lancet, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and Nature.

In addition, I teach the art of behavior design to product leaders from places like Facebook, Slack, and Intuit alongside other experts like Dan Ariely and Kristen Berman at Behavioral Economics Bootcamp. I’ve also mentored at accelerator programs like Stanford StartX and Cornell Tech.

What I’m up to now
I don’t do much consulting anymore—I’m more focused on the Behavior Institute, investing, and advising. I’m also helping apply behavioral finance in the venture space.I love connecting with people trying novel approaches to solve difficult behavioral problems—especially product, design, and finance people. If that sounds like you, definitely get in touch.

In 2012, Forbes referred to Chris York as “a psychologist with a special job [:] to find ways to keep users engaged, and ultimately modify their behavior.” The scope of behavioral challenges he’s undertaken are broad, including voter turnout, eliminating hypertension, and maximizing contributions to savings account. Working at the intersection of psychology, technology, and design, Chris helps organizations develop successful approaches to applying behavioral science.

Chris founded Cognitive, an award-winning strategy and design consulting firm that has worked with some of the world’s top startups, leading multinationals, and most renowned universities and medical institutions. The team has helped deliver change for organizations like Illumina, Salesforce, Novartis, VMWare, Healthline, UCSF, Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, multiple US Presidential candidates, and many Y-Combinator startups. Cognitive’s work has been chronicled by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, BBC, MSNBC, and Bloomberg.

In the world of startups, Chris provided behavioral science, product, design leadership for at least 10 startups prior to their acquisitions, including Rise, 100plus, Breakthrough, WellnessFX, TalentShare, and Keas. He is also an active investor and advisor, including Spotify, Palantir, Circle, Lark, and Able Health.

In the non-profit space, Chris founded the Behavior Institute, which aims to aggregate datasets on behavioral interventions from government, academic, and commercial sources and make them easier for practitioners to discover and analyze. The result of this work will better equip policy-makers, business leaders, and others capable of large-scale behavioral influence to do so more successfully. Chris is also an advisor to CommonCents Lab, where Dan Ariely and other world-class behavioral interventionists design and test solutions to increase the financial well-being for low- and moderate-income people living in the United States. CommonCents is funded by the MetLife Foundation, and has collaborated with CreditKarma, Gusto, AARP, CapitalOne, and other leading fin-tech organizations.

Chris studied psychology at Stanford University and worked on research in the lab of Benoit Monin, including experiments published in Psychological Science and Newsweek.


"Participants who received Prepmate were more likely to attend study visit [...] and have TFV-DP levels consistent with ≥ 4 doses/week (72% Prepmate vs. 57% SoC). [...] 92% would recommend Prepmate to others."

J Clinical Infectious Diseases, re: Prepmate

"[Organizers] were able to secure 235 attendees in 16 hours on Hustle; it had taken 60 staffers a total of 2,200 hours to get their first 465 commitments. [Hustle] worked with more than 1,300 campaigns in the 2018 midterms."

Bloomberg, re: Hustle

"This results driven philosophy that begins with a personalized view that translates savings into estimated monthly income in retirement and offers next steps to help boost income in retirement. Of the participants who have used our experience, 39% changed their deferral rate and the average deferral rate increase was 25%."

Empower Retirement, re: DoubleNetPay

"Currently the study has almost 200,000 participants and having the internet to connect with this group is a major plus for the researchers. "We can leverage this group to conduct very rapid studies," Olgin said. "As an example, we are doing a trial of a smoking cessation tool. We needed 300 participants. We contacted our then 100,000 participants and had our 300 slots filled in 20 minutes."

SciStarter, re: UCSF HeH Study

"Ongoing engagement increased roughly 30-fold and sustained engagement increased roughly by two orders of magnitude. 85-90% employees reported improved morale and productivity."

Games for Health Journal, re: Keas

"Thanks to the Hustle platform, a critical new piece of technology behind our experiment, it became possible to send "peer-to-peer" text messages in 2016. In short, for the voters who were part of the experiment, we were able to increase turnout among some of the hardest to turn out voters in the country. We did it in a cost-effective manner, and future programs can build on that." + Hustle

Nice things people have said about me

"Chris York is a psychologist with a special job [...] find ways to keep users engaged, and ultimately modify their behavior.”

Zina Moukheiber
Forbes / 500 Startups

“A sharp founder who specializes in behavior change.”

Mark Goldenson

“Chris is a multi-talented behavioral psych jedi.”

Chris Hogg
Propeller Health

“Chris is the person I learn the most from around behavioral insights.”

Kristen Berman
Irrational Labs

“Chris is a 10X designer and product thinker.”

Jahed Momand
Head of Customer Research