Meet the Pavlok – a bracelet that gives you an electrical shock when you break a new years resolution or commit a bad habit. The bracelet is named after Russian Scientist Ivan Pavlov who conducted a famous animal behavior test where dogs were fed whenever a bell rang. The dogs became so conditioned to the sound of the bell that they would drool without food even being presented.
The bracelet works by allowing you (or others through a smart phone app) to shock you any time you commit a bad habit. It can even integrate GPS and shock you if you do not get within a desired GPS location (e.g. – gym) within your scheduled time frame. The conditioning part of the device is to alert you with a pre-warning LED light so that you can correct the behavior before it shocks you.
Sound Orwellian to you? Seems to me the designer of this bracelet is lumping humans and dogs into the same arena by using negative reinforcement as a conditioning mechanism.
Let’s be clear…negative reinforcement is nothing new in society. The most common form was spanking a child when they performed a bad behavior. So, what’s the big deal about Pavlok?
First, it seems like this bracelet shock treatment is one step away from the shock collar. Care to live The Running Man in real life?
Second, negative reinforcement is efficient/quick. It is not effective/long term. Pavlok tries to manipulate words with this statement:
Our research found that negative reinforcement is actually far more effective for sparking initial habit change.
Aesop’s Fable of the Goose and the Golden egg teaches us this principle. The story goes that a cottager found a goose that laid golden eggs. He was completely astonished and wanted to become rich quick. Rather than wait for the goose to lay eggs, he decided to kill the goose and harvest all the eggs at once. After killing the goose, he got a couple golden eggs, but since the goose was dead it could no longer produce any more.
Just like the fable, the bracelet might be able to correct habits initially, but long term it will not help you to be a better/richer person.
Third and MOST important is the fact that people are willingly subscribing their hard earned dollars to subject themselves to shock treatment in favor of accomplishing goals. Have we lost so much motivation that our own will power will not suffice for developing good habits?
Who knows….perhaps shock treatment is the new norm. After all, millions of American’s shocked the hell out of their belly fat.