Famous Physiologist Ivan Pavlov is famous for his study of classical conditioning, whereby he rang a bell every time he gave food to a dog. After some time, the dog learnt to associate the sound of a bell with food, and it would drool every time it heard the bell, even if no food was presented.
Fast forward over a century, and Maneesh Sethi, author and Stanford alumnus, is trying to figure out why despite knowing the right thing to do, we keep making the wrong choices. We skip gym day, wake up an hour later than we’ve decided on, even though we distinctly know that we shouldn’t. What he created as a result of his research was Pavlok, a wrist-wearable that teaches you to kick your bad habits by, literally, shocking you.
From the name alone, it’s easy to see that Pavlok takes a leaf out of Pavlov’s book by combining classical conditioning to social accountability. If you have completed the goal you set out to do, you could get a monetary reward. If not, your friend, who is able to make sure you’ve done your bit with Facebook or the Pavlok App, would be allowed to press the zap button and send you a mild electric shock via the wearable. It also works as an alarm, so if you oversleep, the Pavlok wristband will send you a mild shock if you snooze too many times.
Pavlok claims to help users “form habits they wish they had”. However, the concept behind Pavlok of shocking the user seems extreme and almost archaic. The actual forming of an intended also still depends on the dedication of the individual, who may find ways to cheat the system or just avoid the product altogether, despite the well-meaning intentions early on.
According to Engadget, Sethi is certain that science is on his side. He cites research at Duke University that claims 40 percent of our day is occupied by habits rather than conscious decision, and has lost 13kg himself just by relying on his own invention. Impressive?
It would be interesting to see how popular Pavlok really is when the product launches its crowdfunding campaign in September. The first batch of Pavlok is now available at US$250, and pre-orders for the next batch arriving early next year is priced at US$150.