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PSYCHOLOGY NEWS - Persuasion and Behavioral Economics: Studies on What Works (and What Doesn't) to Change Behavior in the General Public

by Dr. Lynn Margolies



Research findings on the most successful ways to influence people's behavior:

…Make the penalty clear beforehand.

…Use consequences instead of telling people what they "should" do. For example, "The penalty for speeding is a $100 ticket." versus "You shouldn't speed."

…Make the desired choice the default.

…Use social norms (a positive use of "peer pressure") vs shoulds. For example, when entering college students are informed of the fact that most students opt not to binge drink or use drugs. This has led to reduced drinking. Or, when consumers are given feedback about good behavior others are engaging in: "Your neighbors’ households are using less energy than yours", it encourages behavior that follows suit.

DeAngelis, T. (2014, December). Coaxing better behavior. APA Monitor on Psychology, 45(11), 62.

Dr. Margolies commentary:

When these findings are applied to parenting, here are some tips that can make or break whether your consequence is effective in teaching new behavior:

…Apply consequences in a neutral tone and manner, e.g., not when angry, or in an "I told you so" way, or in a way that tries to leverage fear.

…Choose consequences that in some way relate to the behavior and don't overdo it. For example, longer punishments are not more effective and can needlessly create other problems.

…Reinforce the positive behavior you want whenever it occurs (more effective than negative consequences). And when kids are doing something that you want them to stop, focusing on what you would like them to do instead is more effective than asking them to stop.

Relevant Articles:

Being a Wise Ally

How to Overcome Obstacles to Change

How to Get More of the Behavior You Want in Kids (Without Really Trying)

How Parents Can Help Teens Under Academic Pressure (and 5 Common Traps)


To see other similar articles, click on the following links: Psychology News

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