“Will I?” questions are a more effective way to motivate yourself than “I will” statements
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Trying to motivate yourself for yet another round of new years resolutions?
What’s gonna help you actually meet them this year?
Well, motivational self-talk can improve performance, from sport to work.
But can you improve on telling yourself “I will exercise today” or “I will stick to my diet today”?
Try asking yourself a question: “will I exercise today?” or “will I stick to my diet today?”
Asking yourself a question is a more effective way to motivate yourself and influence behaviour change than making a statement, according to a review of 100 studies spanning 40 years of psychological research.
Psychologists call it the “question-behaviour effect”.
Overall, the study’s findings suggest that the “question-behaviour effect” is a simple yet effective technique.
It creates consistent, significant changes across a range of behaviours.
The technique has swayed people toward cheating less in college, exercising more, recycling, and reducing gender stereotyping.
Dr Dave Sprott, one of the study’s authors, explained:
If you question a person about performing a future behavior, the likelihood of that behavior happening will change.
When people are asked whether they recycle, of example, it is a subtle reminder that it is good for the environment.
If they don’t already recycle, or exercise, or eat healthily, it can lead to uncomfortable feelings.
Recycling — or whatever the behaviour is — will alleviate those feelings.
Professor Eric R. Spangenberg, the study’s first author, added:
We found the effect is strongest when questions are used to encourage behavior with personal and socially accepted norms, such as eating healthy foods or volunteering.
But it can be used effectively to even influence consumer purchases, such as a new computer.
The researchers found the question-behavior effect to be strongest when questions are:
- Administered via a computer or paper-and-pencil survey;
- When questions are answered with a response of ‘yes’ or ‘no.’; and
- There is no specific time frame for the target behavior.
Dr Sprott said:
It is pretty easy to ask a question, and it can be done in a variety of means, such as ads, mailers, online media, and interpersonal communications.
Sometimes, though, the technique does not work as well — usually when people already do the target behaviour a lot.
For example, asking someone if they will be doing a lot of drinking or skipping classes can cause them to increase these behaviours.
So when it comes to those new years resolutions try motivate yourself with a question like, ‘will I exercise — yes or no?’ rather than declaring, ‘I will exercise.’
You can read more about changing habits here:
The study was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology (Spangenberg et al., 2015).
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