June 27, 2021

Katy Milkman: How to Make Healthy Habits that Actually Last [INTERVIEW]

We all appreciate a fresh start. Time to start again. A clean slate. Maybe we want to go to the gym more often, eat more vegetables, or read more books. But why do we often fail to maintain our new healthy habits?

Our guest today, Katy Milkman PhD, believes that we often focus too much on the final outcome, rather than the steps that will get us there. Thinking about what is going to trigger our actions and what barriers are going to get in the way of our new behavior, are much more effective techniques than aiming for the finishing line.

Katy Milkman is the James G. Dinan Professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and holds a secondary appointment at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. Her research explores ways that insights from economics and psychology can be harnessed to change consequential behaviors for good. She is no stranger to podcasts, as host of the Charles Schwab podcast Choiceology with Katy Milkman, she explores key lessons from behavioral economics about decision making.

More recently, Katy has published a new book, which is already a best-selling hit: How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be https://amzn.to/3wTSxH7. We are thrilled to delve into some of the groundbreaking research behind the book, as well as Katy's motivation for writing.

In our conversation, we talk about a project she started with Angela Duckworth PhD, The Behavior Change for Good initiative that uses large scale or “Mega” experiments to explore many different behavior change ideas with over 150 of the top researchers in the world.  

Katy attributes a lot of her career success to her PhD mentor, Max Bazerman, one of our favorite guests on Behavioral Grooves (Episode 196: https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/living-happier-by-making-the-world-better-with-max-bazerman/). We discuss the magic “algorithm” that Max uses to get the best out of his students and how we can all learn from these mentoring steps.

Our conversation also touches on the more topical application of behavioral science; encouraging vaccination uptake. Katy’s early response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to start researching different message reminders sent to patients. We talk about how the endowment effect plays an important role in effective vaccination messaging.

Next, you can listen to our follow-up Grooving Session (in separate episode #233) where Kurt and Tim do a deep dive discussion into Katy's interview and leave you with some actionable insight on how to change your habits.

If you are a regular listener to Behavioral Grooves, please consider donating to our work through Patreon https://www.patreon.com/behavioralgrooves. Your donations help support the cost of publishing the Behavioral Grooves podcast. We also love reading your reviews on the podcast, which in turn, helps others find our content.

© 2021 Behavioral Grooves

Topics We Discuss with Katy Milkman

(5:38) Welcome to Katy Milkman and speed round questions 

(6:36) The behavioral science behind a “Fresh Start”

(10:25) Why being a Flexible Fernando is better than being being a Rigid Rachel

(17:01) Does goal setting help change your behavior?

(17:55) The value of breaking down a goal 

(20:24) What was the impetus behind Katy writing the book How to Change?

(24:55) What is the Behavioral Change for Good initiative?

(29:31) How did Katy become interested in Behavioral Science?

(32:17) Why Max Bazerman is such a successful mentor?

(40:24) How do we encourage more people to get vaccinated? 

(45:54) What music has Katy listened to through the pandemic?

Links 

Katy Milkman, How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be https://amzn.to/3wTSxH7 

Hengchen Dai PhD – Baseball research https://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty-and-research/management-and-organizations/faculty/dai

Marissa A Sharif, Suzanne B Shu (2017), The benefits of emergency reserves: Greater preference and persistence for goals that have slack with a cost https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1509/jmr.15.0231 

Al Bandura, Stanford University https://albertbandura.com/ 

Hal Hershfield, UCLA https://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty-and-research/marketing/faculty/hershfield 

Shlomo Benartzi, UCLA https://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty-and-research/faculty-directory/benartzi  

Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance https://amzn.to/3wVoWwO 

Behavioral Change For Good  https://bcfg.wharton.upenn.edu/

Daniel Kahneman https://amzn.to/3zRNHvL 

Episode 196: Living Happier By Making the World Better with Max Bazerman https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/living-happier-by-making-the-world-better-with-max-bazerman/

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, Dear Abby: Should I Give Advice or Receive It? https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797618795472 

Episode 226: The Power Of Unity: Robert Cialdini Expands His Best Selling Book Influence https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/cialdini-unity-in-influence/

Gretchen Chapman, Speaking of Psychology: Will people accept a COVID-19 vaccine? https://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/covid-19-vaccine 

Kurt Lewin Behavior https://www.change-management-coach.com/kurt_lewin.html 

Force Analysis https://creately.com/blog/business/force-field-analysis/

Episode 217: 3 Ways To Have A Positive Chat About Vaccine Hesitancy With Friends And Family https://behavioralgrooves.com/episode/vaccine-hesitancy/

Musical Links

Just Dance YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChIjW4BWKLqpojTrS_tX0mg 

Taylor Swift “Blank Space” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-ORhEE9VVg 

Megan Trainor “All About That Base” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PCkvCPvDXk 

Katy Perry “This Is How We Do” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RMQksXpQSk 

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