Simply copying the strategies of a friend or acquaintance is a simple way to help reach your self-improvement goals, research finds.
People looking to exercise more, eat better or work harder can just ‘cut-and-paste’ the hacks that others use.
In this study, people were aiming to exercise more and were told to mimic the techniques used by friends.
This was enough to make them exercise more.
The technique probably works so well because people learn better from observation.
Learning from a friend or acquaintance also increases confidence in the ability to copy it.
After all, if they can do it, then surely I can do it?
The study’s authors write that copy-paste approaches…
“…are easy to implement, virtually costless, and widely applicable with the potential to improve outcomes ranging from healthy eating to academic success.”
The study included 1,028 people who were asked how many hours they spent exercising each week.
One group were given the following instructions for the copy-paste approach:
“In this study, we want to help you learn about an effective hack or strategy that someone you know uses as motivation to exercise.
Over the next two days, we’d like you to pay attention to how people you know get themselves to work out.
If you want, you can ask them directly for their motivational tips and strategies.”
The results showed that, compared to controls, people in the copy-paste group spent more time exercising.
The authors write:
“The benefits of copy-paste prompts are mediated by the usefulness of the adopted exercise strategy, commitment to using it, effort put into finding it, and the frequency of social interaction with people who exercise regularly.”
The copy-paste approach can be used to achieve a wide variety of goals, the authors write:
“It may be that once a consumer learns to copy-paste in one domain (e.g., exercise), she will be able to apply this technique in a way that improves many other outcomes (e.g., retirement savings).”
The study was published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research (Mehr et al., 2020).