Washington :Will you stick to your New Year’s resolution? Posing a ‘simple yes or no’ question to yourself, rather than making statements, may help you better stick to it through the year, according to a new study.
“Will you exercise this year?” That simple question can be a game-changing technique for people who want to influence their own or others’ behaviour, researchers said.
The study is the first comprehensive look at more than 100 studies examining the ‘question-behaviour effect,’ a phenomenon in which asking people about performing a certain behaviour influences whether they do it in the future.
The effect has been shown to last more than six months after questioning.
“If you question a person about performing a future behaviour, the likelihood of that behaviour happening will change,” said Dave Sprott, senior associate dean of the Carson College of Business at Washington State University.
The basic idea is that when people are asked ‘Will you recycle?’ it causes a psychological response that can influence their behaviour when they get a chance to recycle.
The question reminds them that recycling is good for the environment but may also make them feel uncomfortable if they are not recycling.
The findings suggest questioning is a relatively simple yet effective technique to produce consistent, significant changes across a wide domain of behaviours.
The technique can sway people towards cheating less in college, exercising more, or reducing gender stereotyping.
“We found the effect is strongest when questions are used to encourage behaviour with personal and socially accepted norms, such as eating healthy foods or volunteering,” said Eric R Spangenberg, dean of the Paul Merage School of Business at University of California, Irvine.
The researchers found the question-behaviour effect to be strongest when questions are administered via a computer or paper-and-pencil survey, and when questions are answered with a response of ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
They also found that those using the technique are better off not providing a specific time frame for the target behaviour.
The researchers also advise using caution asking about vices like skipping class or drinking alcohol. In their review, they found a study showing that people asked about vices later did them more than a control group.
They suggest the key to influencing someone’s behaviour is to ask a question rather than make a statement.
For example, parents asking their high school-age children, ‘Will you drink and drive?’ should be more effective than when they say, ‘Don’t drink and drive.’
For people making New Year’s resolutions, a question like, ‘Will I exercise – yes or no?’ may be more effective than declaring, ‘I will exercise.’ The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.