Can technology really change your habits?
Downloading an app won’t get you to change your habits. Vivian Giang writes on the science of what will.
“There are three kinds of behavioral changes, according to Arun Sundararajan, a professor at NYUâ€™s Stern School of Business whose research program focuses on how information technologies transform business and society:
- The first includes changing behaviors that you learned through experience, such as the way you manage your time.
- The second involves retraining your biomechanical system to behave differently, such as not pressing the breaks constantly while youâ€™re driving.
- The third has to do with physiological behaviors such as smoking and exercising.
The behaviors that have the highest chance of changing even after app usage are the second and third. Why? â€œBecause theyâ€™re not changing you. Theyâ€™re training you to do something differently, so once youâ€™ve trained yourself, you can stop using [the app],â€ says Sundararajan. When it comes to learned behavior (the first one), thereâ€™s a greater chance youâ€™ll revert back to your old behavior after using the app.
If the app only changes your reaction to feedback, such as reprimanding you for checking your social media, then thereâ€™s a good chance youâ€™re only changing your behavior because youâ€™re using the app. When it comes to changing, Sundararajan says your best bet is to not put too much stock in the digital and technology.
â€œOver the last decade, weâ€™ve started to overestimate the power of technology and we reduce the importance of things like community,â€ he says. â€œA big part of behavior change has to do with changing the environment that youâ€™re in and changing the interactions that you have with people.â€â€