Behavioral science is a term that refers to the study of how and why people people make the choices they do. Of particular interest to behavioral sciences is why sometimes those choices are neither healthy nor wise. For this reason, entities ranging from Ivy League universities to the U.S. government are eagerly jumping aboard the behavioral science bandwagon.
As it turns out, behavior science itself just might have answers to the questions about why people often choose to do things that are self-harming in nature. In this post, learn the reasons why behavioral science holds such great potential to help us get healthier and stay that way.
Unhealthy Choices People Make Every Day
When you really stop and look around you, you can see great numbers of people making unhealthy personal choices every day. For instance, some people choose fast food for lunch when a healthier restaurant is just next door.
Other people light up cigarettes and spew secondhand smoke into the air when they could be using a vape pen starter kit instead. Still other people opt out of their post-workday exercise regimen to head for happy hour yet again.
It’s not that these behaviors don’t make us happy in moderation. But when people make these same choices day by day and over and over again, they lead to a very unhealthy lifestyle full of difficulty and discomfort.
The Basics of Behavioral Science
As a scientific discipline, behavioral science states that many of the decisions a person makes daily are heavily influenced by peers and cultural habits – whether we realize it or not.
Here is how this might work: You really want to lose 20 pounds. Your best friend is also overweight, yet she chooses to eat fast food every day at lunch. Since she is your best friend, she also invites you to join her every day for lunch. Again, because you enjoy her company, you don’t turn down her invitation of course! So the two of you lunch on fast food five days per week and both of your waistlines continue to expand.
This is behavioral science at work. You could think of it this way: the company you keep will have a great impact on your quality of life. This doesn’t mean you have to give up all your friends who have bad habits. It just means you need to become aware of how other people’s bad habits and bad choices can “leak” into your life as well. This way, you don’t have to sacrifice good company to steer clear of bad choices.
The World’s Savior: Behavioral Science
Just knowing how behavioral science works, or even seeing it at work in your own life, won’t be enough on its own to beat back the obesity crisis or stop secondhand smoke from entering our lungs. But it can give individuals, workplaces and institutions practical ideas for how to create an environment of more positive influence.
For example, let’s say everyone at your workplace is fond of fast food and is also overweight. So maybe your employer sponsors a weight loss contest with a desirable prize for the winner. During the contest, your employer brings in a chef to prepare healthy versions of fast food favorites, a dietitian to talk about portion control and meal planning and a fitness specialist to outline creative ways to fit exercise into the workday. As the contest continues, each person at your workplace begins to feel empowered to lose weight and get healthier. They slowly start to change their habits and compete more vigorously for the big prize.
One day, you head into work, look around you and realize everyone looks slimmer – including you! This is the healing power of behavioral science. By deliberately and positively influencing groups of people over time, individuals then gain the opportunity to transform their lives for the better.
By: Jennifer Livingston