Behavioral Engineering: Changing Bad Habits and Health Norms

Problem Statement:

Bad habits and unhealthy behaviors are at the center of many areas that could benefit from transformative consumer research: addictions, unhealthy eating, risky behaviors, and many social interactions.  Two common ways of addressing these problems have been fairly top-down:  Promoting information campaigns or employing behavioral economics incentives.  In contrast, this paper shows that many unhealthy behaviors are developed either by design or through habits.  By specifically understanding how these occur enable us to develop or engineer bottom-up behavioral-engineered solutions that target the root of the problems.

Marketing and Policy Implications:

We will show how behavioral engineering can address both design problems and bad habits in a systematic way.  We will conduct a study on whether people with unhealthy behavior habits have skewed behavior norms based on the frequency of their behavior (e.g., heavy drinks think most people drink more than they do; heavy people think they are lighter than average). We will look at health norms in a grocery store and shopping behavior.  We will explore new behavioral engineering approaches to eating fruits and vegetables and reported eating behavior in homes. And we will study the development and cessation of habits to explore how changing personal norms changes behavior. We will explore how we can discover critical points of habit formation to prevent bad habits from being formed in the first place.


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