How does social pressure affect sticktoitiveness?
August 17, 2010 10:07 AM   Subscribe

I want to learn as much as possible about the psychology of purposely forming new habits (like exercising each day) or sticking to something which requires daily work (like learning a language). I am especially interested in the role that social pressure of peers can play in a person's success (Alcoholics Anonymous, study partners, even the recent findings that a person's weight is related to the weight of those close to them may be examples). Books, articles, jumping off points -- academic or otherwise -- would be very much appreciated!
posted by the jam to Human Relations (8 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
I found the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard to be very interesting. The authors discuss a lot of different research on change, change on both a personal and organizational level, and it is a very easy read.
posted by elmay at 10:19 AM on August 17, 2010

This is more public policy related, but Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness is a good one.
posted by pantarei70 at 10:22 AM on August 17, 2010

Steve Pavlina has some useful things to say.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:13 AM on August 17, 2010

This article doesn't cover social pressure, but I think point #4 is especially relevant. We have a finite amount of willpower, according to research. Thus, changing one habit at a time leads to less failure, would be the conclusion I would draw from this. I do wonder how long it takes to form a habit. I have heard varying answers to this, from 2 to 6 weeks.
posted by annsunny at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2010

You might find some good info in The Program. I heard an interview with the author on the radio and thought it sounded pretty credible. She focuses on the neuroscience of changing habits. I don't know if there is much in their about group effects, though.
posted by alms at 12:50 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would recommend having a look at behavioural theories (Skinner et al). Essentially - how to reinforce behaviours such that they stick. Many people, anecdotally, are sure to reward themselves for sticking with their new habit and, according to the theories espoused by Skinner (which are, as far as I'm aware, backed up by bucket-loads of data) such rewards will likely go a long way to reinforcing the new behaviour and, thus, making it stick.

For dog-oriented but absolutely great reading: Karen Pryor's Don't Shoot the Dog.

For fun: The Shamu book.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 1:11 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I recently got interested in the same thing and am ordering the following book from Amazon:
The Science of Self-Control

I clearly can't recommend it, since I am yet to read it, but I am weary of self-help books, hence why I picked more of an examination, rather than advice, -type book.
posted by adahn at 12:18 PM on August 18, 2010

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