This is a legacy website for the Behavioural Design Lab. It is no longer updated.
Behavioural Design Lab Subscribe Bird Contact

The Destructive Influence of Imaginary Peers

Health, Psychology, alcohol, norms, rationality, social

We humans irrationally think we’re rational. We think that we decide how to behave by weighing the pros and cons. In reality, the strongest influence on our decisions is the example of the people around us — even, oddly enough, when they are imaginary.

Like most universities, Northern Illinois University in DeKalb has a problem with heavy drinking. In the 1980s, the school was trying to cut down on student use of alcohol with the usual strategies. One campaign warned teenagers of the consequences of heavy drinking. “It was the ‘don’t run with a sharp stick you’ll poke your eye out’ theory of behavior change,” said Michael Haines, who was the coordinator of the school’s Health Enhancement Services. When that didn’t work, Haines tried combining the scare approach with information on how to be well: “It’s O.K. to drink if you don’t drink too much — but if you do, bad things will happen to you.”

Read the rest of the article...

Related content

Social network targeting to maximise population behaviour change: a cluster randomised controlled tr...

Let’s quit together: health kicks are easier if your partner signs up too

Chatting About Time Management With The Godfather Of Irrationality, Dan Ariely

© 2015 Warwick Business School and the Design Council
jQuery UI Datepicker - Default functionality