Can you change your behavior?

Last semester, I put on 7kg.  Since then, I have kept saying “I need to lose weight!  I need to exercise!”  However, till now, I haven’t done any exercise.  I guess it is not only me who has experienced a diet failure.

“Be friendly to environment” is another example of a failure to change behavior. The media says we need to act friendly towards the environment.

But can you shorten your shower time starting tonight for water conservation?

Can you stop driving a car and take a bus starting tomorrow to decrease the amount of CO2 emission?

Anja K. (2010) mentioned in her paper that even though a lot of research has been done, no definitions for representing the gap between having environmental knowledge and being environmentally aware, and displaying a pro-environmental behavior have been found.  She disserts the factors that have been found to have some positive or negative effects on pro-environmental behavior, such as demographic factors, external factors and internal factors.  She also describes why people act environmentally and what the barriers to pro-environmental behavior are.

Changing people’s behavior is one of the big goals of science communicators.  However, from my experience with dieting, I know that it is really hard to change behavior in daily life even though it is required to improve ourselves, and it is even harder to change behavior just for the environment.

Anja K also mentioned that pro-environmental behavior is affected by “Situational factors”.

You might be able to ride a bicycle to university instead of driving a car if you have time and enthusiasm.  This would help you get in shape.  However, you definitely would pick a car if you are in hurry, and I have to say we are in hurry in most cases!

So, how can we force ourselves to change our behavior? Please let me know your opinion.

Anja K. & Julian A. (2002), Mind the Gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior?, Environmental Education Research, 8:3, 239-260

Photo is retrieved from


8 comments so far

  1. ashfonty on

    I think that most people’s barrier to changing behaviour is time constraint or lack of ability. For example if you haven’t been taught how to ride a bike, it is going to take a lot of time and effort for you to learn how to do so, buy or hire a bike and then actually start riding the bike to work!

    It’s the same with dieting – it doesn’t just happen. You have to look up recipes, do a bit of research to see where you’re going wrong, buy the food and then actually have the time to cook and prepare it! Not easy for uni students who are notoriously time poor!

    Anyone is capable of changing their behaviour or as you have put in, ‘forcing themselves to change’. But at the end of the day you will have a set of priorities and if that activity doesn’t make the cut, you aren’t going to change your behaviour. Its up to the science communicators to be clever in persuading you that it should be at the top of your list! Science communicators need to put those ‘situational factors’ into perspective and consider their audience when trying to portray their message.

    • keikok on

      I totally agree with you ashfonty. Managing our own time and motivation are the key factors to consider when we want to change our behavior. Usually, we have our own cycle in the life but when we start something new, we have to change this cycle, which is pretty hard. Also, as you mentioned, it is hard to think what priorities are.
      It seems that I should think about myself as a target audience to change my behavior. The main message would be… “Manage Your Time for your Health!”

  2. djasudasen on

    How can we force ourselves to change behaviour? Whoever finds the answer to that will be a millionaire (and hopefully they will use their power for good!).

    In my opinion, time isn’t the issue. You can always find time – if you actually WANT to. Most people know exactly what they need to do to lose weight. 30 minutes is not THAT hard to find but will make all the difference if you use it to exercise. You need to be mentally and emotionally ready to commit losing weight.

    Can Science Communicators actually go all the way and make someone change their behaviour? I’m not convinced. I think the ‘situational factors’ that Anja K talks about can refer to if you are mentally and emotionally ready to change. A cleverly worded message may help change your intention to change or your intention to research more on the topic but in terms of the end result, it’s out of their hands and up to the individual.

    The question is, how can we make people emotionally ready for pro-environmental behaviour. A deeper level of psychology is required.

    • keikok on

      Thanks for your comment djasudasen.
      As you mentioned, if we could find the answer for changing our behavior, we would be millionaires like Stave Jobs at Apple, Bill Gates at Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook!!
      They actually have been changing people’s behavior. They know what people need and want. Usually, what we need is different from what we want and when they become the same, we change our behavior. It could be purchasing, or managing the time. However, people often don’t realize what they need and want. I think these guys are very clever creating what people want and need in their life.
      Their fields are business and engineering but are also could be science communication.

  3. noelynn on

    “How can we force ourselves to change our behaviour?” I wish I could be a millionaire after answering this question.

    Changing ones behaviour is not as simple as one might think. Like djasudasen highlights, time may not be the issue. I think it’s a matter of changing your environment that dictates your action. This means to change the way you think, do things and relate to people that can influence your behaviour. We are influenced by the things around us, so to speak.

    So don’t fight yourself to change your behaviour in the midst of the wrong environment; just change the environment. So like Anja, referring to the “situational factor”, one needs to be prepared well to change behaviour. So to make people emotionally ready for pro-environmental behaviour, we need to understand the psychology involved.

    Therefore, a science communicator has to understand the underlying situational factors to change the pro- environmental behaviour.

    • keikok on

      I wish if I could be a millionaire by finding the answers too!
      Environment is huge factor when we want to change our behavior.
      I came to Australia because UWA has better program for science communication area than any of Japanese universities, but on the other hand, it is really hard for me living here because many things are new to me and I have to change my behavior to deal with them. However, I thing I have been doing well and it would not be happened if I still was in Japan. Environment could be people around you as well as where you are. My friends are come from very variety countries and their cultures are different from others. This is great opportunity for me because I feel like I have to learn and adapt to their culture too, that I wouldn’t be able to do if I was in Japan.

      When we think about the audience, we also have to think about their background and culture to get the attention from them. Hahaha, I am glad to come to Perth to meet you guys! 🙂

  4. zoesimmons on

    I have completely stopped excersising this semester and am definitely gaining weight and losing fitness fast! However, even though in know this is happening I still haven’t gone back to the gym.

    Your comments on everyone being in a hurry are definitely valid. I know I stopped excersising so I would have more time to do uni work. With everyones busy schedules changing behaviour is definitely difficult. It’s easier to just stick to your ‘usual’ regime to get things done faster and be more efficient.

    I think my personal context also factors in here as I’m not training for anything or excersising for anyone other than myself. On top of this I am a student and getting good grades is currently more important to me than the size of my thighs.

    I think to change my behaviour (not just on excersising- but on shorter showers and other bad habits), it will be very difficult. To change behaviour the most important thing is to create new habits, make them part of your schedule. For me to do this I know I’ll gain a few more kilos then force my self back to the gym.

    All in all everyones different and every individual will require different prompts to make them change their behaviour.

    • keikok on

      I agree with you zoesimmons! I can say it is not only me who is gaining kilos just because they are busy doing their assignment. Also, I am pretty sure that it is not only me who start eating sweets or junk food when they are stressed or during their study for exams!
      As noelynn mentioned above, changing the environment is such a good idea to change our behavior but making new habits seems to be good idea too! It is always good to start something new and if it stays in your life cycle, it is even better!
      Hahaha, now I am looking forward our winter break so that I will not have any excuse for eating junk food!

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