Unhealthy habits resist change, regardless of good intentions and repeated efforts. Smoking, eating unhealthy food, and watching television or lingering in social media at the expense of adequate sleep plague many people. Rewards-based behavioral conditioning works for some people. Researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of Leuven studied the success of counterconditioning in changing behavior. Counterconditioning, also called aversion therapy or aversion conditioning, occurs when a negative stimulus is paired with undesirable behavior. The researchers found counterconditioning was successful at changing behavior when other methods failed.
Behavior Technology Group, Inc.’s Pavlok can help people break bad habits, change behaviors, and improve productivity. The device rewards goal achievements with vibrations and administers shocks for unwanted behavior. You can configure behaviors recorded or sensed by other devices that result in vibrations or shocks with a mobile iOS or Android app via If This Then That (IFTTT) scripts. The app configures shock intensity and vibration duration. The rules-based programming is transmitted to a small, rechargeable module that fits inside a provided wristband. If you prefer to keep it out of sight, you can also tape the module to your skin. You can use Pavlok manually to administer shocks yourself when you catch yourself doing something you’re trying to quit such as biting your nails, eating, drinking, or smoking. IFTTT scripts can set the module to shock when you get close to a fast food restaurant, open a smart refrigerator door, spend more than 20 minutes on Facetime, or let your unread email count exceed 50. Pavlok can work with other wearable or smart devices with IFTTT. For example, you can configure Pavlok to vibrate when your Fitbit reaches your daily step count goal.
Using Pavlok for notifications can be handy, but the counterconditioning effectiveness of electric shocks is its highest purpose. Pavlok is most effective changing behavior with both self-administered and scripted shocks. Good intentions are fine, but people who are unable to change bad habits with intentions alone may have more success with a counterconditioning wearable like Pavlok.