Most of us know the decisions we should be making, such as going to the gym instead of sitting in front of the TV or cooking a healthy meal rather than ordering an all too convenient take-away.
Maneesh Sethi decided to investigate why we continue to make the wrong choices despite knowing the right thing to do. His investigations led to the development of a new wearable – Pavlok, which detects behaviours and habits and literally shocks the wearer into forming better ones!
Initially, Pavlok punishes users with a small electric shock for bad behaviours such as failing to hit work deadlines or not engaging in enough activity. It then looks to instigate rewards to reinforce good behaviours.
Research has long supported the fact that humans (and even most animals!) are instinctively motivated to avoid punishment and seek reward. Just as we might feel bad for having those take-aways if they result in weight gain or we might feel good after a bout of exercise, reinforcement shapes our future behaviours and Pavlok looks to implement this into a new wearable. However a small electric shock might not be habit changing for some!
With Pavloks shocking capabilities, the design of the wristband might not be so appealing to everyone or be suitable for all occasions. However it provides an interesting alternative to most wearable devices by aiming to change habits rather than just measuring current ones.
Pavlok also gives food for thought into the power of habit. Whilst the Pavlok may shape behaviour to avoid a ‘shock’ or receive a reward, maybe it’s now time to think more consciously about our lifestyle choices and the impact it has on our health, rather than the shock we might get from a wristband. Although most of us may choose to ignore it, our habits can punish and reward us in relation to our long term health too, which is much more damaging than a small shock. For example, healthy habits reduce the risk of developing long term conditions whilst unhealthy habits can increase the risk or exacerbate current conditions. Maybe we shouldn’t rely on a wearable device to help us become healthier, but rather consider the impact of our habits and behaviours on our future health instead.
Pavlok could be a great way to help people stay on track to reach their goals and develop a healthier lifestyle but on the other hand, it could just be a wearable which gets left on the bedside table! Its crowdfunding campaign is set to launch this autumn.
Adie Blanchard – Researcher