This Simple Twist Can Make Your New Year’s Resolution More Effective

Many people try to keep their New Year’s resolutions going by motivating themselves with prizes or accountability buddies. But a new meta-analysis to be published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggests we may be overlooking a simple yet effective way of sticking to resolutions: asking ourselves a few pointed questions.

Study review co-author Eric Spangenberg of the University of California, Irvine, is an expert in what’s called the “question behavior effect.” He and a team of researchers reviewed 104 studies encompassing more than two million participants and found that if researchers asked people a question about a new habit they would like to adopt — say, “Will you recycle?” or “Will you exercise?” — those people were 13.7 percent more likely to follow through on that behavior in the future.

There are many theories that could potentially explain why being asked a simple question prompts behavioral change, but Spangenberg says one of the strongest is called the “consistency-based explanation.” Being confronted with a question such as “Will you eat healthy food?” forces you to reflect on all the times in the past when you ate junk food, and that doesn’t feel good. There’s only one way to get rid of that icky feeling, Spangenberg explained to HuffPost: either change the way you eat, or try to convince yourself that eating healthily isn’t very important.

Of course, it’s very difficult for a rational person to convince themselves of the latter.

“It’s pretty hard to say it’s not important to vote, eat right or exercise,” said Spangenberg, a professor and dean in UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business. “So the easiest way to get rid of that cognitive discomfort is to perform that behavior.”

The studies Spangenberg included in his analysis weren’t done within the context of trying to —> Read More