Blog of Sara Jakša

Changing Habits Based on Different Paradigms

When I was doing the seminar paper on the nudging for Actors, Behaviours and Decision Processes class, I made the list of all the ways that people can get influenced. So when I was looking through my notes, I noticed that these ways can actually helps us find different methods in order to change our habits.

I will try to explain this on the example of a person trying to start exercising.

The first one is based on the economic incentives. So there would be some financial incentive for exercising. For example, every day that a person does not go to the gym, they have to pay 10 euros to a friend. Or every day that a person does not go for a run, they donate 10 euros to a political party they disagree with.

The second one is based on the social pressure. This one would have a person change their social circle in a way, that there would be more people exercising regularly in it. Some of the ways to do this is to join meetup for people that exercise, like the cycling group. The other one is to take up a class where the whole group exercise at the same time. Or become pat of the team in a team sport, like the volleyball, basketball or football.

The third one is based on the psychological biases. This one would, for example, use different biases that we have to make it more likely to exercise. Some of these things are like wording the question differently, like instead of "Are you going to exercise today?", the question could be "Are you going to a run or cycling today?". Different apps that use gamification for the exercise can also work. For example, the app that counts the amount of exercise each day and they compares it with previous days or other people.

The fourth one is changing the environment, sort of like using the embodied paradigm or situated cognition in the cognitive science. Make sure there is the running gear out and ready each morning. Move to a place where people are constantly exercises (or change the job to get into that environment, but that seems a bit extreme :) ). Or simply change the circumstances, like sell you care and force yourself to take the bike to work. Which works even better if there is not good public transportation around.

Sure, it does also helps if a person can find something enjoyable to do. For example, I can't stand running or going to the gym. But I like walking, cycling and swimming. But once a person finds something like that, it is helpful to use at least some of these methods.

For example, for exercising, I know that if I don't the monthly/semester ticket, then I am going to cycle everywhere. And these short distance do add up to about 100km per week, which I think it quite a nice number. Here I am using the mixture of third (default choice) and forth point, by making the bike the most obvious choice. Also I experience some of the effects of the first point, as I have more money left over, as I did not spend it on the ticket.

Which one are you using to change your habits? If you so far relayed only on the will-power, than try some of these options.