Please login to the form below

Are your brain’s biases sabotaging your New Year’s resolutions?

Alison Doughty, Managing Director of 90TEN Medical

Many of us start January determined to take better care of our health. Whether we plan to exercise more, go vegan or lose weight, we begin the year all fired up about our decision to make a positive change. But our resolve can weaken as January wears on. Even if we know we will feel better for going to the gym instead of watching Netflix, or choosing lentil soup over a bacon roll, we can find ourselves making the ‘wrong’ decision. Why is this? Three cognitive biases that influence the way we think about the future play a vital role here.

Our cognitive biases – the mental shortcuts we all use to make decisions – have an invisible influence on our daily lives. This is as true when it comes to health as anything else. Why don’t patients always take their medicine, even when they know it is important for their long-term health? Why do people struggle to stick to a diet even when their cardiovascular health depends on it? Being bias aware can help us to understand ourselves and potentially stick to our resolutions.

It won’t happen to me

We tend to believe we are more likely than other people to achieve success and less likely to experience negative events. This ‘optimism bias’ may mean we view health problems – from cancer to heart attacks and diabetes – as being more likely to affect other people than ourselves. Why work hard to maintain a healthy weight if you think it won’t be you who end up suffering from one of these conditions?

I know what I want

We make predictions about the future based on our current thoughts and feelings, overlooking the possibility that these may change in the future. This ‘projection bias’ can see us making decisions that suit our current selves but not our future selves. This is why your resolution to do Veganuary might go out of the window if you arrive home exhausted and famished after a long day at work and a chilly commute to find your family tucking into a delicious hot, cheesy pizza. Your cold, hungry, tired current self thinks eating the pizza is a good decision, even though your future (warm, sated, rested) self will not agree.

I want it now                                                    

Hyperbolic discounting bias describes how we prioritise smaller, immediate rewards over larger ones we have to wait for. Research shows that if people are offered the choice of receiving a smaller amount of money now or a larger amount in a year’s time, most choose the smaller amount. But if people are offered a smaller amount in five years or a larger amount in six years, most choose the larger amount – people make ‘better’ decisions when the lure of immediacy is taken away. When it comes to health and healthcare there are few immediate rewards, and this may help to explain why our health is so often nudged down our list of priorities.

Getting to know your biases

Being aware of these biases and the powerful but invisible role they play in our everyday decisions may help us to stick to our New Year’s resolutions and make better decisions. When it comes to healthcare communications and medical education, understanding these biases enables us to help others make healthier choices and support doctors to better manage their patients.

Right, I’m off to the gym now. I’m just going to watch one episode of Orange is the New Black, then I’m definitely going. Just one more...

28th January 2019

Share

Tags

Company Details

90TEN

+44 (0)20 7627 0990

Contact Website

Address:
Battersea Studios
80 Silverthorne Road
London
SW8 3HE
UK

Latest content on this profile

‘Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind’
Carole North, CEO, 90TEN
90TEN
Are your brain’s biases sabotaging your New Year’s resolutions?
Alison Doughty, Managing Director of 90TEN Medical
90TEN
90TEN gets 2019 off to a strong start with four new hires
90TEN appointed four new members of staff across its thriving public relations and medical education divisions.
90TEN
90TEN wins big at PRWeek Awards taking home six accolades including Mid-Sized and Specialist Consultancy of the Year
Global communications consultancy 90TEN was presented with some of the biggest awards of the night picking up both Mid-Sized and Specialist Consultancy of the Year at the PRWeek Awards 2018. 90TEN Account Director, Amy O’Connor won the prestigious Young PR Professional of the Year award. The consultancy’s campaign Flight HIV101 for Gilead scooped the award for Best Use of Content as well as receiving high commendations in both the Healthcare and Best Influencer Marketing categories.
90TEN
90TEN boosts PR and medical education teams with senior hires
12th October 2018, London – 90TEN today announced the appointment of two senior members of staff following the continued growth of the award-winning consultancy. Abigail Last joins 90TEN Communications, the PR company of 90TEN, as an Associate Director while Jaya Shumoogam takes up the role of Senior Medical Writer in 90TEN Medical, the medical education company of 90TEN, taking the consultancy’s headcount to 60.
90TEN
90TEN’s life changing PR and medical education campaigns shortlisted for five Communiqué Awards
The shortlisted campaigns demonstrate courageous and insight-driven work from the consultancy.
90TEN