Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Why do we stick to our bad habits?

08.11.2006
Why do we ignore public warnings and advertisements about the dangers of smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, stressing out and otherwise persist in habits and behaviours that we know aren't good for us?

Because, says a University of Alberta researcher, we aren't getting at the underlying reasons of why we persist in bad habits or risky behaviour.

In two recent case studies asking people to rate the danger of various types of risks including lifestyle habits, it was clear that they understood what types of behaviour are the riskiest, but that knowledge wasn't enough to motivate them to change their ways, said Dr. Cindy Jardine, an assistant professor of rural sociology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

"The results showed that in fact, people have a very realistic understanding of the various risks in their lives. We as risk communicators--scientists, academics, government agencies--have to get beyond the thought of 'If they only understood the facts, they'd change.' They do understand the facts, but we need to look at other factors we haven't been looking at before."

Jardine presented her findings recently at the RiskCom 2006 Conference in Sweden.

In the first case study conducted by Jardine, 1,200 people in Alberta were surveyed in both 1994 and 2005. Lifestyle habits like cigarette smoking, stress and sun-tanning were ranked as the top three risks, being considered more dangerous to the Alberta public than technology or pollution hazards such as chemical contamination, ozone depletion and sour gas wells. Cigarette smoking was ranked as "very dangerous" by 53 per cent of those surveyed in 1994 and by 60 per cent of the respondents surveyed in 2005. Stress was ranked as "very dangerous" by 54 per cent of the people in 1994 and by 65 per cent in 2005. In contrast, sour gas wells were ranked as "very dangerous" by only 24 per cent of the people in 1994 and by 28 per cent in 2005.

The second case study, involving a survey conducted in two northern Aboriginal communities in Canada revealed similar results. Again, lifestyle risks were seen as the most hazardous. Almost everyone in the communities ranked risk associated with alcohol use (96 to 100 per cent of the respondents) and smoking (80 per cent of respondents) as "very dangerous". Risks associated with trace contaminants and doing traditional activities in a harsh environment were ranked as less risky.

When asked about personal and community health issues, the respondents in the second survey freely acknowledged that they knew about the hazards of risky behaviour like choosing to drive while impaired, about secondhand cigarette smoke and about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, when unborn babies are damaged by their mothers' alcohol consumption.

"So they know alcohol is bad, but risk communicators aren't looking at the underlying reasons why people drink--poverty, unemployment, there is a history of abuse in some of these families. If we could get to the underlying issues of what turns people to drink, we would do better in fully understanding the context of their lives," Jardine said. "If we're just telling people what we know about the health risks, chances are we aren't going to solve any problems."

Factors such as the need for social acceptance and plain old human defiance play roles in persistent bad habits, the study suggests. "We get a sense of belonging that is important to us. We can see ourselves as part of a social structure; it's very hard to change a behaviour if it is still accepted socially," Jardine said. "For instance, stress is bad for us, yet we wear it as a badge of honour. It is seen as a socially desirable thing to be overworking. We don't seem to have the same respect for people who work a 40-hour week."

As well, we don't like to hear about what we shouldn't be doing, so we rationalize our bad habits, Jardine said. "We all have a bit of recalcitrant child in us. We keep smoking with the excuse 'It hasn't hurt me so far, or 'It helps control my stress or weight'."

Until the psychology behind risky behaviour is really understood, people won't give up their vices, no matter how much they know, Jardine said. She suggests researchers and other risk communicators need to talk to the people they're trying to reach, before forming messages. "We need to listen more to the things that really concern people and to look at social norms and why they are starting to dictate our actions. We as a society have to rethink and challenge those norms."

Bev Betkowski | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ualberta.ca

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Geographers provide new insight into commuter megaregions of the US
01.12.2016 | Dartmouth College

nachricht Sustainable Development Goals lead to lower population growth
30.11.2016 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>