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    The Science Of Change
    By Art Markman | October 21st 2013 06:30 AM | 7 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Art

    Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, director of the program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations, advisor to Dr. Oz...

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    If you walk by the checkout counters at most supermarkets,you might come to believe that changing your behavior is almost impossible.  Every month, the headlines from countless magazines scream out with advice to lose weight, get in shape, and help yourself to feel better.   Apparently, everyone is constantly struggling with their weight and fitness.

    Yet, there are notable success stories. For example, the Cleveland Clinic has had incredible success helping their employees to stop smoking, eat well, and stay fit. They start with a specific definition of wellness involving five normal health measurements including normal blood pressure and body-mass index (BMI). They instituted a comprehensive wellness plan that includes smoking cessation classes, farmer’s markets, banning smoking, trans-fats, and sugary drinks from the work environment, free yoga classes, and counselors to help people who are trying to lose weight.  It turns out that changing behavior doesn’t require one trick, it requires many.

    Why is behavior change so hard?

    As I discuss in my upcoming book Smart Change: Five Tools to Create Sustainable Habits in Yourself and Others (Perigee), much of your daily behavior is driven by habits that have been learned over a period of years.  Habits are maintained by structures deep in your brain that we share with most other animals.

    Image credit and link: Softball Excellence

    These structures are extraordinarily efficient at learning the behaviors that you repeat and then helping you to perform those behaviors in the future without having to engage the conscious decision to do them.

    The habit learning system allows us to engage behaviors quickly and without extensive deliberation. Because the brain is an energy intensive organ, the less time we spend deliberating about behaviors, the lower the energy cost of behavior. So, the brain typically operates to minimize the amount of time spent making decisions.

    In order to overcome the power of past experience, you need a comprehensive approach to change your behavior that helps you avoid the old behaviors and perform the new ones often enough to allow them to become habits.

    To see these processes in action, let’s look a bit more carefully at why the Cleveland Clinic has been successful at changing people’s behavior.

    First, they optimize people’s goals by focusing them on specific health targets that are measurable. The five normal values are all targets that people can influence through their daily behaviors. 

    Second, the Cleveland Clinic changes people’s environment to make the behaviors that people should perform easy and those that they should avoid hard. By making the campus smoke-free, they require smokers to walk along way if they want a cigarette during work hours. By banning trans-fats and sugary drinks, they make healthy food options more easily available than unhealthy ones.

    Third, the clinic engages people’s social network. People are a powerful source of motivation to change behavior.  Sharing a yoga class with colleagues is a great way to reduce stress along with your colleagues. Weight-loss counselors provide a friendly face who can provide instant personal advice on eating right.

    By removing lots of temptations from people’s lives, the Cleveland Clinic reduces their employees’ reliance on willpower to overcome temptations and instead focuses them on positive behaviors that can be turned into habits. Research demonstrates that willpower is prone to failure.  In addition, studies suggest that new habits are learned only when a behavior is repeated in a context.  You cannot create a habit not to perform an action. 

    If you are lucky, of course, a large organization like the Cleveland Clinic will come along and help you to structure your world to succeed at changing the behaviors that have resisted your previous efforts.  If not, then learn more about the way your motivational system operates. Describe your goals in positive terms that your habit system can learn.  Set up your environment to make desirable behaviors easy and undesirable ones hard.  Engage with people who will help you achieve your goals. And don’t give up, even on the days when you fail.


    Art Markman is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin and Director of the Program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations. He has written over 150 scholarly papers and is currently the executive editor of the journal Cognitive Science. He is the author of Smart Thinking and Habits of Leadership. Art’s next book, Smart Change, will be published in January of 2014. 


    Because the brain is an energy intensive organ, the less time we spend deliberating about behaviors, the lower the energy cost of behavior.
    Does this mean that constantly thinking about things actually burns up food?

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    And this is the perfect example of how a rotten little cliques of quacks and charlatans has taken over the country, and now think they're they're perfectly entitled to sit there making smug pronouncements about how we're all supposed to live, as if we're all just little pieces of clay for them to mold into any deformed shape they please. Their pretexts come from committing scientific fraud by falsely blaming peoples' lifestyles for diseases that are really caused by infection. Their pseudo-science of lifestyle questionnaires comes straight from the Third Reich, as does their ideology that the individual is the property of the state. They're the enemies that hate our freedom, and we should be at war against THEM.

    The Stand-Up Physicist
    It is much better to be ruled by small groups of agents of profit that supersize us into a better profit for their shareholders.  A McDonalds and Pizza Hut for every school, that is where profit driven freedom leads.  Both sides have people who understand how to manipulate people.  I prefer the work of public health officials to the marketing departments of fast food international corporations.  The deformed shapes come from watching the cheese-filled crust pizza ads on TV, then ordering delivery of said item in a box with bread sticks.
    Your so-called "public health" officials are the ones who lie and corrupt science, while casting aspersions at others who do not. They also think they're entitled to use government to inflict their delusions, prejudices and class privilege over everyone else, while others may only rely on voluntary consent (as long as they're not successdul at it!). And, they're unaccountable to the people, whose money they feed on. As I said, those health fascist oligarchs are the enemies that hate our freedom and we should be at war against THEM.

    The Stand-Up Physicist
    Much of the data that public health officials is public.  You can look at it yourself.  Lying in peer review journals is not the standard operating procedure.  Certainly there are rare examples, and when they happen get a lot of press.

    Compare that to marketing, what for-profit businesses do.  All that is important is figuring out how to pitch a product to people so they want it.  The product does not have to actually reach the goal.  The point of marketing is to develop an effective message.  I don't call marketing "lying".  They really do measure what people most want, then claim their product delivers what people most want ("satisfaction", "happiness", ...).  The marketer's job is then done.  The fact that claims cannot be satisfied by the product is quite common, and why some jump to the "lying" label. 

    The "super-size" campaign of McDonalds was a classic example.  People naturally want more.  Super-size fits that human desire.  Only a small, secret product development team decided to spend tens of millions of dollars to give people the freedom to eat way more calories at a single sitting than any normal adult needs.  We don't have the freedom to eat organic, low-calorie fast food because of decisions made by product managers no one will ever know about.  A reason that campaign was stopped was due to a film on the subject, "Supersize Me".
    Lying in supposed "public health" oriented journals is standard operating procedure. Anybody who believes that so-called "peer review" prevents it is hopelessly gullible, when none of those "peers" ever objects to their fraudulent practice of ignoring the role of infection in the diseases they blame on peoples' lifestyles. Far from it! Their object is political, namely manufacturing propaganda in favor of meddling in peoples' lifestyles, and those who commit fraud are praised and rewarded for it, not criticized. The charlatans are in the driver's seat of public policy, and every Surgeon General report on smoking is proof of this.


    Every SG report since the 1980s has been perpetrated by the same rotten little clique, and no real scientists are welcome! The ringleader, Jonathan M. Samet, has been an anti-smoking activist since the Fifth World Conference on Smoking and Health in 1983. He was one of three "consulting scientific editors" and "prepared draft chapters or portions" of the 1986 Surgeon General Report, "The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking," and was also involved in the 1984, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2004 SG Reports, and was Senior Scientific Editor of the 2006 Surgeon General Report, "The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke." He was also a member of the Science Advisory Board of the so-called "EPA" Report on ETS, the key chapters of which were actually secretly written by an anti-smoking activist crony of Samet's, using illegal pass-through contracts to conceal his role. Samet was Chairman of the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) committee which produced the fraudulent Monograph on Smoking and Involuntary Smoking in 2003. In 2005, Samet and three anti-smoking activist cronies formed a majority of the voting board of the ASHRAE Position Document on ETS. In addition, he committed perjury in 1998 in the State of Minnesota lawsuit against the cigarette companies, and testified in the US Department of Justice lawsuit against them as well. He was a contributing author and editor of the 2010 Surgeon General's Report, How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease, and three of his adminstrative underlings (Roberta B. Gray, Nancy Leonard, and Deborah Williams) were also involved in the report. And, Samet is now chairman of the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration as well.

    There is never a peep of protest about their fraudulent exclusion of the evidence on infection. Including from their victims, such as the tobacco companies, whose so-called experts are all drawn from the ranks of the quack true believers. Nothing could be stupider and more dishonest than to pretend that the occasional little tempest in a teapot over some inconsequential study is proof of the rarity of fraud, when their whole ediface is rotten to the core! And the vast majority of the alleged misconduct consists merely of plagiarism.

    Meanwhile, your ilk consume our tax dollars to pay for their frauds. For the government to commit fraud to deprive us of our liberties is automatically a violation of our Constitutional rights to the equal protection of the laws, just as much as if it purposely threw innocent people in prison. And for the government to spread lies about phony health dangers is terrorism, no different from calling in phony bomb threats. All on behalf of smug, overprivileged and unaccountable health fascists, who sit in supercilious judgment of the supposed offenses of the marketing types! The persecutors want to bust them for supposedly promising happiness! They pretend that all the marketers have to do is promise happiness, and people will automatically obey like robots! "Only a small, secret product development team decided to spend tens of millions of dollars to give people the freedom to eat way more calories at a single sitting than any normal adult needs." Sweetheart, people already have that freedom - at least until your ilk get away with your conspiracy to deprive us of it! "We don't have the freedom to eat organic, low-calorie fast food because of decisions made by product managers no one will ever know about." No, it's because of decisions made by hundreds of millions of individuals who think your food sucks.

    cleveland clinic, while not perfect, does pay doctors and other staff a salary (as do countries with universal health care) rather than pay per treatment (all you can eat, or pay for). but, anyone who consults with Dr Oz is way ok with me; i am the father of the wizard of oz tho he ran away somewhere over the rainbow. (doug sweeter has a good web page, and acknowledges his mistakes, if they are). isnt steven weiberg at U Tx austin, as was prigogine? dont mess with texas, or 'w' ( i know laredo, el paso, etc.)..