How can we create better habits? Many of us ask this question of ourselves as we enter the New Year and implement our resolutions. Exercising regularly, flossing, healthier diet, studying hard in school, financial decisions – why are better habits so hard to maintain? What can we do in order to improve our chances of meeting these goals for ourselves?
In this week’s episode, Erik and Zarak tackle these questions with Dr. Katy Milkman, associate professor of behavioral economics at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. They discuss behavioral concepts like habits, incentives, motivation, rewards, consequences, accountability, and commitment devices. Katy brings an engineering background to her current focus on quantitative social science research, such as how to help people create lasting and positive behavior change.
One of the most relevant behavioral concepts to New Year’s is the fresh start effect – how at the start of new cycles in our lives, we feel extra motivated to tackle new goals. Entering a new period makes us feel like we have a separation from our past failures, and we have a renewed optimism to finally do the things we want to do but never got around to. According to Katy, emphasizing milestones or life events (big or small) can be effective motivators for behavior change.
“One of my favorite solutions is something I call temptation bundling, which is trying to link a “want” with a “should.” So you can only enjoy a “want” when you’re engaging in the “should” in order to make the “should” more appealing. There are many different ways you can construct these types of bundles. My research has shown that this can be an effective way to promote behavior change. We actually ran one experiment where we showed that temptation bundling helped get people to the gym more.”
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