Keep your New Year's resolution a secret: Study

NEW YORK: All geared up for the New Year bash and ready to declare your resolution? Just hold on. New research has found that the secret to a successful New Year's resolution may lie in, well, keeping it a secret or at best asking yourself a question.

So if you want 2016 to give your body a sexy shape, a question like, “Will I exercise — yes or no?” may be more effective than declaring, “I will exercise”, the study said.

The trick of asking a question works also in people whose behaviour you want to influence, the researchers said.

“Will you exercise this year?” That simple question can be a game-changing technique for people who want to influence their own or others’ behaviour, said the study spanning 40 years of research. The research looked at more than 100 studies examining the ‘question-behaviour effect,’ a phenomenon in which asking people about performing a certain behaviour influences whether they do it in the future.

The effect has been shown to last more than six months after questioning. “If you question a person about performing a future behaviour, the likelihood of that behaviour happening will change,” said study co-author Dave Sprott, senior associate dean of Carson College of Business, Washington State University.

The basic idea is that when people are asked “Will you recycle?” it causes a psychological response that can influence their behaviour when they get a chance to recycle. The question reminds them that recycling is good for the environment but may also make them feel uncomfortable if they are not recycling. Thus, they become motivated to recycle to alleviate their feelings of discomfort.

Overall, the researchers’ findings suggest questioning is a relatively simple yet effective technique to produce consistent, significant changes across a wide domain of behaviours. The study appeared in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.