Values alignment: An alternative to pragmatic appeals for behavior change

Colloquium | February 20 | 12:10-1:15 p.m. | 1104 Berkeley Way West

 Christopher J. Bryan, Assistant Professor, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago

 Institute of Personality and Social Research

The science of behavior change has become an increasingly important frontier in the quest to improve human health and well-being. Recognition of this is now widespread in the scientific community, but the science of behavior change—the development of effective, empirically-validated techniques for producing lasting, internalized motivation for the behavioral choices people know they should be making but usually don’t—is still badly underdeveloped. Most public appeals to engage in such “should behaviors” (e.g., exercise, eat healthily, save for the future, conserve energy) are predicated on the pragmatic reasons why they are important. The problem with this approach is that those pragmatic arguments lack the motivational immediacy to drive the needed changes in behavior for reasons psychologists have understood for decades. Here, I suggest an alternative approach: re-framing should behaviors in terms that emphasize how those behaviors serve the values that are already immediate and important to the people whose behavior one seeks to change. In this talk, I will describe one example of this approach in depth—an intervention to get adolescents to adopt healthier dietary habits by framing manipulative food marketing as a subversion of important adolescent values, including autonomy from adult control and social justice—and discuss ways in which this approach can be applied to motivate other types of important behavior change.

 ipsr@berkeley.edu, 510-642-5050