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Habit Judo
April 19, 2011 2:55 AM   Subscribe

Having trouble forming (and then keeping) good habits? Habit Judo may be the answer. [via mefi projects]

Thanks to our very own leotrotsky.
posted by maxwelton (84 comments total) 103 users marked this as a favorite

 
Unfortunately, one of my habits, besides recording my habits, will be to keep a habit at all. But definitely going to try this now!
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:38 AM on April 19, 2011


Ssshhh! It's talking about a cookie.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:08 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I already get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from doing an actual item on my to-do list...but I still often avoid the list. How will an additional sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, this time fictional, about a meta-list help me?
posted by DU at 4:47 AM on April 19, 2011


Man, the grinding dailies at level cap is going to be brutal in this game.
posted by Decimask at 4:51 AM on April 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


Awesome. I'm doing this. Are you keeping up with recording all those habits as you progress - jus scanned it but that's dozens by the time you are a black belt right? - or do you only record up to some number of daily habits?
posted by scunning at 4:53 AM on April 19, 2011


Is the levelling linear or exponential in this? I couldn't quite work it out - with the extra habits you get as you level up, does the time-per-level remain constant, on average (assuming you manage each habit each day), or do the gaps increase WoW style?
posted by piato at 5:16 AM on April 19, 2011


I've been using this, and it's fun. The levelling seems pretty linear (so far, but I've only done a few levels). I haven't found a good (read: cheap) source for the wristbands in Australia yet, either, and I just know they would make it way more fun.
posted by lollusc at 5:20 AM on April 19, 2011


This should be an app, not a spreadsheet. I think you know that. You can experiment with different reward schedules and see what works best. You're welcome to contact me for further brainstorming.
posted by civicDuty at 5:24 AM on April 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Hell yeah, this should be an android or an iPhone app.
posted by lyam at 5:25 AM on April 19, 2011


The Mefi Projects page says he's working on an Android app. (Although apparently it's behind schedule)
I'm not an app person, but I do have trouble with good habits and respond quite well to spreadsheet tracking. Thanks!
posted by MtDewd at 5:36 AM on April 19, 2011


Hmm, in Excel, the random values are changed whenever a cell value is entered. In LibreOffice, they are not updated.

Am I supposed to enter the current random value in the cell, or always the value 1?
posted by orthogonality at 5:53 AM on April 19, 2011


I'd get in on the beta testing of this, but I just know I'm going to get burned when they nerf my black belt 'nosepicker-channelhopper' build citing 'balance issues'.
posted by RokkitNite at 6:10 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yey! Hey folks, There will be an article with Habit Judo in the upcoming Saturday edition of the Guardian.

There should also be a beta Android app up by that time.
There's also someone tinkering with iPhone.

I'd love to hear futher suggestions!
posted by leotrotsky at 6:14 AM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


The idea of tracking my habits instead of just doing them seems like a huge waste of time, but then, I have problems sitting still and playing an average video game for more than 10min.

I'd much rather have an app that just nagged me at different points in the day. And in RANDBETWEEN(1, 10)<10 cases, it says it doesn't believe me and that I'll turn out like Uncle Larry, and ask if that's what I want.
posted by hanoixan at 6:16 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Orthogonality: I've been entering (1)s for competed habits, but there's no reason you can't just enter the value of the random number. I likely made this unnecessarily complicated.

Also LibreOffice(stupid name) may not like the formula RANDBETWEEN, or it might just have different rules for updating. I don't use Libre, but they probably have (or should have) documentation.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:19 AM on April 19, 2011


If my new habit is habit judo, will it cause a maximum recursion and collapse the universe? Or is it just habit judos all the way down?
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 6:20 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


DU: I encourage you to RTF webpage. There's actually an explanation as to why this is stickier than a simple to-do list.

If there's anyone interested in development, drop me a memail.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:29 AM on April 19, 2011


"Is the levelling linear or exponential in this? I couldn't quite work it out - with the extra habits you get as you level up, does the time-per-level remain constant, on average (assuming you manage each habit each day), or do the gaps increase WoW style?"

There's a modifier value applied to the point values, but it's not tremendous. It should take about 7 days to level early on, and that scales up to about 14 days at black and above.

Awesome. I'm doing this. Are you keeping up with recording all those habits as you progress - jus scanned it but that's dozens by the time you are a black belt right? - or do you only record up to some number of daily habits?


I'm of two minds. The habit blogs always say 21 days = a habit, so you might want to phase out early habits after X days of tracking. On the other hand, the behaviorists will tell you that if don't reinforce, you'll get extinction. ...and they actually conduct experiments.

I suppose I'd trust BF Skinner over Leo Babauta.

The problem then is tracking may become excessively arduous. One solution is chaining habits, so one triggers the next. Morning Routines are an example of that. You could convert a series of habits into a chain, and track that instead (with a point multiplier equally the # of habits in the chain).

I've thought way to much about this, as you can tell.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:48 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok - I've worked out the levelling system! It's nonlinear, assuming you manage to do every task. By my maths, you get (L+2)*5.5 points on average per day, which is equal to 5.5L + 11. That means on level one, you average 16.5 points a day, and get to white yellow after 6-and-a-bit days.

I'm then level two, and getting 22-a-day - at that rate the 140 points I need will also take 6-and-a-bit days.

I'm then level three, and getting 27.5 a day - at that rate the 210 I need will take 7 and a half days.

I'm then level four, and getting 33 a day - at that rate the 252 I need will take 7 and a half days.

That definitely seems like a good system - I like this.
posted by piato at 6:50 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aargh - crossposted with the actual answer! Sorry, and thanks LT.
posted by piato at 6:51 AM on April 19, 2011


I've been using the system for a week now. I understood it a bit differently, in that I roll a d10 every night for each of my completed habits. I find this additional randomness to be fun and addicting, but it can also be frustrating as I missed my level up by one piddly point yesterday! At the same time I know because of this, I'll strive to do all my habits today. I haven't looked for plastic bracelets but I'm considering making up a nice set of themed friendship bracelets in place. All in all it has worked to get me to drink more water and consult my GTD system each day; tomorrow the tasks will include journaling/blogging and I'm psyched already!! Great job leotrotsky :)
posted by Meagan at 6:58 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did in fact RTF webpage, which is why I mentioned the *real* feeling of accomplishment I get from the *actual* to-do list.

The variable thing...meh. I'd like to see how well this works over time. *Whenever* I switch to a This Time It's Going To Work new system it does in fact work for a while. Most people do not actually stay addicted to variable reward systems for the long-term. Sure "lol i'm addicted to Farmville" was a common meme for a while, but they've moved on to Angry Birds or whatever else the flavor of the month is.

What people are really addicted to is novelty.
posted by DU at 7:01 AM on April 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


What if you don't perform one of your tasks? Do you log any points at all, or do you roll for minus points on the one you didn't do?
posted by flippant at 7:02 AM on April 19, 2011


You roll to save vs. death.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:11 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


orthogonality: "Hmm, in Excel, the random values are changed whenever a cell value is entered. In LibreOffice, they are not updated."

I had the same question and apparently you have to press Ctrl-Shift-F9 to recalculate manually.
posted by Memo at 7:28 AM on April 19, 2011


I've been using this system since the original comment (definitely works better than anything else I've ever tried) but this spreadsheet is so much nicer, plus I didn't program in the non-linearity of the levels point requirement in my spreadsheet so I'm making the switch!
posted by TwoWordReview at 7:35 AM on April 19, 2011


Flippant: you can do either, but I'd recommend against negative points. I initially thought that setting up a punishment system (negative points) would be a useful addition, but in retrospect people already feel so guilty about messing up new habits that further punishment discourages them from logging at all.

In fact, I find that having a 'bogie' day (where you skip any recording) available for every 2 weeks worth of habits is helpful for folks to stay compliant. Building in some flexibility for life's vagaries is important for sticking with anything long term.

DU: I'm being a bit defensive, but this is my baby.

Most people do not actually stay addicted to variable reward systems for the long-term

citation please? It works for pigeons, it works for training dogs, it works for invertebrates for pete's sake. Give me any behavior that you stick with obsessively, and I suspect you'll find that you've been (perhaps unintentionally) reinforced there.

I'll stop MCing the thread, I've got law finals to study for. Guess how academic performance is reinforced?
posted by leotrotsky at 7:35 AM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'll admit that I've only skimmed the excel file, but the basic mechanic seems extremely similar to Health Month, in which you set goals for yourself, get points for achieving them (with an occasional random bonus) and are encouraged to set a reward if you get above a certain points threshold.

Health Month has the benefit of a MeFi community and more automation, but Habit Judo is, appropriately, much more flexible.

It's a nicely-designed spreadsheet though, thanks; I'll give it a try during the next week or two.
posted by metaBugs at 7:44 AM on April 19, 2011


Guess how academic performance is reinforced?

That would've been an even better rebuttal if you'd started it with "Pop quiz, hot shot:"
posted by condour75 at 7:50 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean that people don't stay addicted to *games* that have variable reward systems for the long-term. My cite is real life. If they really were as effective as all that, we'd all still be playing the variably-rewarding games of yesteryear but we mostly aren't.

"Addiction" to various behaviors (like academic performance) can be explained in ways other than, or at least in addition to, variable rewards. You like law. Or you hope to get a well-paying job. Or whatever.

Which brings us back to my question: Almost everyone eventually "comes to" and notices the game they are playing is just giving them random rewards, the illusion of effectiveness breaks and they manage to break free. It's like my wife with Sims. She plays for a while but then she's like...why am I spending time clicking on a virtual person to get them to clean virtual dishes so I can get a little accomplishment "hit" when the actual me could go clean the actual dishes and get an even bigger hit that's actually real?
posted by DU at 7:51 AM on April 19, 2011


Yeah, but unlike the Sims, here you get the 'real' hit along with the 'virtual' one. You end up with clean dishes. For example, I've added 100 lbs to my bench since tracking. That's not just a vorpal sword on my computer, that's a real substantive positive change in my life. The point is that this system provides a path to 'real' accomplishments by providing the guardrails of 'game' accomplishments. The ultimate reinforcer is that the system works to make improvements in your life.

I feel like we may be talking past each other.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:59 AM on April 19, 2011


What if you don't perform one of your tasks? Do you log any points at all, or do you roll for minus points on the one you didn't do?

In my modified system (which I am also working on an android app for) I have it so that the first time you skip a habit you get a negative 1 multiplier times the random amount of points, the second time in a row you get a negative 2 multiplier times the random amount of points, etc. etc. until you start doing it again.
posted by symbollocks at 8:10 AM on April 19, 2011


There's two different types of habits and they should be approached in a different way. There's ones that accumulate total time and ones that you do once a day or in a few days. For the first kind (like meditation, exercise, working on hobbies), having an easy and flexible system for tracking is important. Here's what I use (for meditation): I have a piece of paper and 5 8's written on it: 88888. Each time I meditate for 15 minutes, I add a '1' under the first 8. Once the first '8' is complete, I go on to the next 8. An '8' is two hours. Five 8's is 10 hours. Once 10 hours is done, I add another '88888' and start on it again. Works great for meditation and exercise both, computer does not need to be on, no need to start up excel, and an app wouldn't make it easier as it's already exceedingly easy.
posted by rainy at 8:19 AM on April 19, 2011


You can roll at 10-sided die

Ahem, NEEEERRRRRRRRD! Seriously though, this is a great idea. I'm the kind of absentminded guy who suddenly starts forgetting to to take his life saving medication when you move my pill box to a different shelf of the cabinet, or alternatively flossing when my floss runs out and I forget to buy a new one at the store. So this system greatly intrigues me, and probably my dentist.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:24 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]




metaBugs, I was thinking of Health Month too. Mechanically, you start the month with 10 "life points." If you follow your rules, you get points (different from life points) and also "fruit." If you flub a rule, you lose a life point, which can be healed with fruit, although I think you have to ask friends/teammates to help before you can use them. Plus there's a bit of randomness built in. The whole thing's got a cute Rube Goldberg feel to it.

This is more "sciencey," which is good too; reminds me a bit of Hacker's Diet.

The other aspect of Health Month that I added this month was joining the MeFi team, and I'm pleasantly surprised at what a difference it's making. I've had a rough month, with two cats getting quite sick, and ye gods it's hard to say no to candy when I'm stressed out. But between the VR of the actual game and the support I've gotten just on my little daily reports, plus reading how other people are faring...it's helped A LOT.
posted by epersonae at 8:35 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


BrotherCaine: oh good god behavioral psych for children. I have bitter, bitter memories of the Chores Chart that my sister's therapist prescribed on the side of the fridge. It's why I got a JOB when I was 15, so as not to depend on "points" for cleaning the litterbox or weeding the roses to get spending money. (That, and the amounts attached to the points may have been appropriate for a 9-year-old, but so very not for a teenager.)

Which I'm realizing makes it totally weird that Health Month is useful for me, and that I find the idea of Habit Judo intriguing, given the frustration I had with the chores chart. Something something intrinsic something? Also: not part of insane family dynamic.
posted by epersonae at 8:44 AM on April 19, 2011


This genuinely seems like a cool idea, and I might well try it. Please leotrotsky, For Habit Judo 2.0, can you put in place a PvP system? So like, I might be walking down the street, then another HJ practitioners notices my wristband and challenges me to a duel? Uh... and then I guess we'd have a vacuum-off, or something?
posted by RokkitNite at 8:53 AM on April 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


I haven't looked for plastic bracelets but I'm considering making up a nice set of themed friendship bracelets in place.

I was thinking along similar lines (making something instead of purchasing the bracelets). I wanted to create a wide leather wristband with slits through which I can thread thinner (think shoelace width) different colored bands representing the various levels as I reach them.

Sounds like a neat system. I definitely plan on trying - I'll have to really think about the rewards system before I start, though. Whenever it comes time to reward myself for implementing new habits I end up finding a bunch of reasons not to reward myself (e.g., I don't need it right now, It'll probably end up as junk, It feels like a waste of time, etc.)

epersonae - Your dreaded Chores Chart experience reminds me of how my dad tried to rope me into a chore system: I earned money for every week I completed my chores -- I owed money when I didn't complete chores. My mother tells me that at one point I owed him about 30 bucks and then he simply released me from the system (as an eight-year-old, I didn't have wages that could be garnished, and I didn't have credit, so any other punishments he implemented didn't have quite the same sting).

Good grief, am I already doomed with Habit Judo?....
posted by neitherly at 9:39 AM on April 19, 2011


Hm, maybe some kind of charm bracelet would work for the ladies? Or make paper beads (very easy to do) and add them on to something periodically?

Hm, yeah, I totally think I'm going to monkey with this when I get out of class today :) (I'm on a break!)
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:03 AM on April 19, 2011


In the spreadsheet should there be a formula in cells K4, K5 etc to calculate the daily points?
In Excel and Libre I see no formulae so either they are missing or I am, as frequently happens, totally missing the point.
posted by speug at 10:14 AM on April 19, 2011


leotrotsky: Have you thought about how to track less frequent habits? What would be the best way of tracking something that it only makes sense to do once per week, or two times per month?

My solution so far is just to have a "frequency" field for each habit (default = 1) that means you are supposed to do that habit once per [frequency] days, which also affects how many points you get for doing that habit each time (rand(1,10) * [frequency]).
posted by symbollocks at 10:29 AM on April 19, 2011


You can buy wearable judo/BJJ colored belts. I love this.
posted by jopreacher at 10:39 AM on April 19, 2011


Symbollocks: nondaily habits are tricky, and I don't have a solution I'm entirely happy with. e.g. For a weekly habit you could conceivably just give it a value of 7*Rand, but it problem is you're not providing any reinforcement for the other 6 days. (Maybe on non-applicable days it could still pop-up among current habits? Perhaps with the check box grayed out?) The alternate method is just logging it every day: I do this with weight training because I consider my rest days an 'active' rest. A populated frequency field as you described also works better from an app perspective (e.g. it pops up only on relevant days) than it does for a spreadsheet.

I'd also be interested in seeing your android app. I'd love most to be able to get a community started around behavioral approaches to life changes. I've set up a Google Group if anyone wants to post their experiments, suggestions, recommendations, etc...
posted by leotrotsky at 10:49 AM on April 19, 2011


Hey, I thought of an idea: what about things that you want to do on a weekly (NOT daily) basis? For example, I'd like something like this for going to the gym-- say, I set a goal of 3 days a week since I literally can't go every single day. How would one account for that sort of thing?
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:16 AM on April 19, 2011


See here
posted by leotrotsky at 11:32 AM on April 19, 2011


Android. The Google Collective. Perhaps tying the activities to Google Calendar might be a way around the 3x/week issue, since then you're pulling it from the schedule. ( although requiring you to block out the time might be off-target here... )
posted by mikelieman at 11:35 AM on April 19, 2011


Glad to see this posted to the blue as a project and site. I started my own habit judo after seeing Leotrotsky's original comment -- I wanted something to help keep me on my marathon training schedule. I've been with it for a month, and it's been rewarding -- I let my coworkers know why I started wearing a colored sillyband (cheaper than a livestrong-type bracelet), and now they congratulate me when I graduate to a new color. My tracking system was inspired by roguelikes -- here's a blank version of my google doc tracker. YMMV.
posted by anotherbrick at 11:40 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I'm so glad to see this on the front page! I have been meaning to post a comment on the Projects page to thank you for this!

The minor customizations I have made to my spreadsheet are:
  • Weeks start on Sunday.
  • Abbreviated the names of the days (from "Monday" to "Mon")
  • Widened the Habit columns so that the values didn't break across lines
  • For some reason my Points column (K) wasn't doing math, so I added the formula to do that.
  • Froze panes so that the top row is always visible as you work your way down the spreadsheet.
For me, the most difficult part was trying to decide what tasks I wanted to add. We all know we want to do, you know, more stuff better. Just sitting down and working out what things I REALLY want to do each day was a valuable exercise on its own.

(I started with 1. Wash all dishes, 2. Scoop all litter boxes, 3. Inbox Zero.)
posted by ErikaB at 11:40 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


For "once in 3 days" type of things I have a simple python script (it's about 20 lines long) that I run once a day and it tells me which tasks need to be done today, which ones were yesterday (to make sure I did not forget) and what's to be done tomorrow (so I can plan for it or do them one day in advance). I have different plants that have to be watered on different schedule, one every 2 days and the other few every 4 days, and I also do cleaning once in 3 days, and this script is very helpful.

If anyone's interested, I can post it. Tasks are added in a simple format on top of script file itself.
posted by rainy at 11:48 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


DU, not everything works for everybody. Personally I hate real-world paper lists. I'm always losing them, and my handwriting is terrible.

I like adding a number to a spreadsheet and seeing all the other numbers recalculate. I like that the math is a little bit magic, so it's not just an endless parade of tick marks on a page. Sometimes I get 9 points for scooping all the cat litter boxes; sometimes only one.

Then again, I have been playing the Sims games daily for over a decade. Other people play games where you shoot things and pretend to be a soldier. That's okay! There's a whole world of games because not everyone likes the same thing. It's great, right?

More on-topic, having perused the comments it looks like I'm doing it wrong? I always enter the number from the Rand line for my daily value. Like today when I scoop the litter boxes, I'll put a 7 in that field.
posted by ErikaB at 11:50 AM on April 19, 2011


I'm going to be completely honest and say that this spreadsheet does not make sense to me. I really would like to get into this with the least possible effort of setting stuff up, but jesus, I don't know why my brain is blanking.

Where do I put my habit down? That formula thing mentioned was bugging me? How do I check them out? What is with the green on Friday!?

Somehow, a simple spreadsheet has blown my mind. Well, I haven't had tea that might be it.
posted by lizarrd at 12:22 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Arghs, comment didn't finish. Essentially, anyone wanna give me a quick tutorial on how to use this?

Yeah, I know I could make one myself, but I am lazy enough as it is and the version already made seems pretty good.
posted by lizarrd at 12:23 PM on April 19, 2011


write your habits down in the cells on row 2. start with three habits.

each day mark '1's in the cells of the appropriate day of the week (they're in column A). These '1's will total in column M

for each '1', look up to the random number above it in row 3. (this is kind of a pain, and could be fixed with conditional cell values, but I haven't done it yet)

add these random numbers and put the total in column N, if you do them all, it's easy because the random number total is listed in N3.

Does that help?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:57 PM on April 19, 2011


I agree with DU. The major thing people don't understand about variable-ratio schedules is that there is a difference between actual schedules and *analogues* to schedules. This program is interesting etc, but it's not the same as a variable ratio schedule because there are verbal/mental mediations. It's actually a fixed-ratio 1 schedule in that each and every time you do the task, you are rewarded with a thought that says "good job, maybe you will get the reward this time."

So there's that.

Secondly, this program does not touch on motivation. The schedules of reinforcement only work, as everyone who's had a rat lab can attest, when the organism is deprived of something. Food is a great reward if you're hungry, water if you're thirsty, etc. What is the reward with this system, and what action would deprive you of that reward to increase its value?

Dr. Dick Malott wrote a book on this topic that I was reading today while sitting around in the lab before class. Turns out it's free online! Here you go: http://old.dickmalott.com/students/undergradprogram/psy4600/selfmanage/
posted by rebent at 1:39 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


maybe a link would be better?

here
posted by rebent at 1:39 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Addiction" to various behaviors (like academic performance) can be explained in ways other than, or at least in addition to, variable rewards. You like law. Or you hope to get a well-paying job. Or whatever.

To be clear, behavioral terms tend to be a bit confusing in this way. "Reward" does not strictly mean "reinforcement", or vice versa. But what you mentioned, DU, is reinforcement; a stimulus that increases the desired behavior.

The schedules of reinforcement only work, as everyone who's had a rat lab can attest, when the organism is deprived of something.

How about the absence of the reinforcement? When they hooked up a stimulator directly to lab rat's brain, it literally couldn't push it fast enough. Plus humans tend to be a bit more complex when applying basic behavioral cues, but people do eat when they're not hungry. Especially if it's really tasty.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:07 PM on April 19, 2011


Rebent: that's a very helpful comment. I'll happily cop to being an amateur, and will read the link. This Dr. Dick Malott, would he happen to be blind? (I ask only because of his webpage color choices and egregious deployment of Comic Sans on EVERY SINGLE CHAPTER OF HIS BOOK)
posted by leotrotsky at 2:19 PM on April 19, 2011


Leotrotsky: no, he's just like 70 years old (Guessing because he got his BA in 1958). Pretty good website for an old guy, if you ask me! He's one of the only people I've met who makes this type of thing a hobby. That webpage is a book he wrote for a class - I'm glad to see there's the free version online.

Re: your amateur status: god, the last thing we need is to only have PHDs doing this. Press on good friend!

P.o.B.: Messing with the brain to understand reinforcement is very odd. Personally I don't think the normal rules apply. If you look at it evolutionarily, it seems that a creature that (1) is reinforced by (2) chemicals that (3) the brain creates when (4) a survival-friendly status is achieved would be able to learn to seek out survival-friendly states. I don't think stimulating the brain directly works the same way because the brain stimulation is the mechanism that the stomach uses to tell the person "yes, I like that, keep doing it" or "No, I'm filled to the brim! No more food please!"

It is correct that Reward =/= Reinforce. A reinfocer is a stimulus that increases the frequency of a behavior that it follows by no more than 10-60 seconds (dick malott's definition). A reward is a stimulus that can be used to increase the behavior of verbal creatures who are able to use words to causally tie the reward to the behavior(my spur-of-the-moment definition). Turning off a radio is reinforced by silence. Turning off the express way is rewarded by getting home.
posted by rebent at 3:23 PM on April 19, 2011


What people are really addicted to is novelty.

And drugs.

Dr. Dick Malott wrote a book on this topic that I was reading today while sitting around in the lab before class. Turns out it's free online!

Turns out the entire thing is written in Comic Sans MS! (oops, LT beat me ...)

I think that if you can get your act together to the point where you can floss every day, then you can achieve almost any evasive goal you set your sights on.

I floss every day, and that statement is kinda ridiculous. Flossing every day takes about 1 minute or 2. That is achievable for most folks. Something that requires 1-2 hours of work each day and/or the sacrifice of truly beloved activities? That's tough; really tough. I'm not sure bracelets or belts are enough of a reward for me.

To be honest, the most effective "performance-management" technique I've found has been the Derek Sivers method: Don't tell anyone about your goals. Honestly, that's how I approached flossing: don't tell the wife about it, just do it day after day for as long as you can. I still haven't told my wife, but I've flossed (almost) every night for the past two years.

God, I really shouldn't have told anyone, because that goal never ends!
posted by mrgrimm at 3:39 PM on April 19, 2011


Heh. I only started flossing after buttloads of dental rehab, and I do it because I have flashbacks to the hours and expense of scaling and root canal and dental hell I went through. That'll learn ya!

But yeah, I hear ya to some extent. If you are the one creating your own rewards, it can be difficult. Or at least, I'll buy myself whatever the hell I darn well want without waiting for a "reward," so if/when I do this, I may have to come up with some other equivalent substitute thing for that. I think the bracelets/belts are more of a tangible reminder of what I like to call a "personal pissing contest."

Maybe what might work for a weekly goals thing is that your "week" only lasts 3 days, or 1 day, or what have you. Maybe it goes into a different spreadsheet, I don't know (I'm awful at math)?
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:37 PM on April 19, 2011


This is a great idea. I've been thinking about the idea of "gamification" for sometime now. I've constantly fallen back on my RPG days as a way to frame my self-improvement. ie: completing a task lets you "level up" and then you get some reward. I've had mixed results with that because I didn't really know how to implement it. Now someone has come up with a way. Thx LT!
I'm going to try it... see how it works after a few weeks.
Also, I'd imagine that these habits you work on just become ingrained in you and after a while you can just stop tracking it. Is that what the ultimate goal is?
posted by hot_monster at 4:43 PM on April 19, 2011


Also, I use the spreadsheet in google docs. It seems to have broken the formulas. I can't seem to get any random numbers or anything. Anyone else having that problem? Can someone just post the formula to copy and paste in the right cells? I rarely use spreadsheets so I'm not really formula savvy.
posted by hot_monster at 4:46 PM on April 19, 2011


It's =RANDBETWEEN(1,10)
posted by leotrotsky at 5:05 PM on April 19, 2011


I don't think stimulating the brain directly works the same way because the brain stimulation is the mechanism that the stomach uses to tell the person "yes, I like that, keep doing it" or "No, I'm filled to the brim! No more food please!"

Nope, but it still falls within the definitions of what we're talking about and it's why behaviorism is often labeled a "black box" way of approaching things. Which also makes it quite hard to talk to any random behaviorist about this stuff sometimes because there can be large departures in they way they define things or even the specific verbiage.

Speaking of simple reinforcement machines
posted by P.o.B. at 5:32 PM on April 19, 2011


Guess how academic performance is reinforced?

Cookies?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:47 PM on April 19, 2011


The variable thing...meh. I'd like to see how well this works over time.

After thinking about this a bit, I keep coming back to this comment because it's sticks out at me as being so hilarious.
If anyone really wants to have a conversation about the merits of intermittent reinforcement I'll happily discuss it with you, preferably at the nearest casino.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:14 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like this idea a lot.

I don't think it's the import to Google documents that's making the spreadsheet break, I did the same thing and it seems to behave the same in dox as in Excel.

What exactly are you trying to do with the spreadsheet? It doesn't seem quite right...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:17 PM on April 19, 2011


a casino is actually not a good place to talk about intermittent reinforcement. Slot machines, and I assume that's the example you would use because that's the example everyone uses, have many continuous reinforcement (every single time) stimuli - flashing lights, sounds, etc. There is also a lot of verbal mediation. Finally, even not winning at a slot machine can be reinforcing

If you want to talk about variable ratio reinforcement, I always like to use the example of how people talk in conversations. You ever notice how a group of people will pick up a phrase and use it over and over again? An "inside joke" or a running gag? Have you ever done it yourself?

I have. My jokes fail, frequently. people look at me blankly. They say, "can you say that again, I didn't hear you right." they think I'm being serious and the conversation goes way off tangent. But sometimes that pretty girl says "Oh you are HILARIOUS! I had no idea you were so funny! You've got a wicked sense of humor! You should tell jokes more often!"
posted by rebent at 8:17 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


uh, sheesh, not to squat this thread or anything >:( It's just rare that I find people online who are interested in the topic. I'll try to reduce my geekout.
posted by rebent at 8:18 PM on April 19, 2011


Forgive me if it's already been discussed somewhere, but Habit Judo work for stuff you're trying to STOP doing? Like, quitting smoking, or surfing Metafilter?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:34 AM on April 20, 2011


Oh, and leo--if you are still there, I'm curious. How long have you been using this system?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:42 AM on April 20, 2011


work for stuff you're trying to STOP doing?

I've used it for that. One of my goals early on was "don't eat out".

I'll try to reduce my geekout.

Oh no, please don't! That's exactly what I love about Metafilter!
posted by symbollocks at 5:28 AM on April 20, 2011


Mentioning just in case it's a bug with the software itself: when I tried to open the document, it made my mouse pointer freeze up completely and I had to do a cold powerdown/restart to get out of it.

However, that could be my computer just being ornery, but just in case.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:56 AM on April 20, 2011


According to my spreadsheet: 104 days.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:31 AM on April 20, 2011


a casino is actually not a good place to talk about intermittent reinforcement.

I disagree with that, because any type of gambling (poker, blackjack, etc.) is intermittent reinforcement unless it's setup to never pay out.
It's hard to talk about any kind of reinforcement or punishment outside of discreet trials, simply because whether or not it falls within the definition of one or the other is by the measurment taken after the consequent. Even when running programs it's pretty much impossible to control all the variables and therefore innocuous things can be reinforcers or punishers.
So, are slot machines intended to give intermittent reinforcement? Yes, but you're right in that a hundred of them stacked together give constant stimulus. I have a casino quite close by my place and my brain is fried after a couple of minutes of being in there, so I avoid the place. That is obviously not reinforcement.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:27 PM on April 20, 2011


The App is up on the Android Marketplace at 99ยข. It is a first draft, but there will be free updating upon purchase. It currently is designed for beginners, taking you up to 5 habits.

Features to be added over the next week:

1. Input current points (so intermediate and advanced folks can pick up from their spreadsheets)
2. Full belt progression
3. Notifications
4. better graphics
5. Reward notifications
posted by leotrotsky at 11:32 AM on April 22, 2011


The Android App
posted by leotrotsky at 5:01 PM on April 22, 2011


Habit Judo makes the Guardian!
posted by leotrotsky at 8:54 PM on April 22, 2011


Thanks for the answers guys. It seems like a great idea for simple habits.

I'm curious as to how it would work for more complex or mental habits, as some studies show that a reward is often not a motivator, and in fact can make you less creative on certain tasks.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 6:01 PM on April 23, 2011


Rebent--and thanks for that self management program from professor Malott. I think it might be one of the most helpful goal/motivation/productivity documents I've ever seen on the web.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 6:43 PM on April 23, 2011


I'm glad you find it useful, T_OJ! If you have any questions, I'd be glad to answer them myself or, if I can't, walk down the hallway and ask Dick himself.

We've talked a lot about "intrinsic motivation" in my program, and how rewards can reduce that. However, as the paper you linked says, "With the exception of some behaviorists who doubt the very existence of intrinsic motivation,..." That's usually where we end up, although I have a hard time arguing with the evidence.

We look at these studies less than we should, because when we do, we usually find problems. Usually, the problem is that the researcher thinks that what works as a reward for one person will work as a reward for everyone.

That said, the best thing to do is find what works for you, personally. For me, all I need is to remember that "When your trash is full, this place looks like a dump. When you take it out, you're making it into a place people would enjoy hanging out." The hard part is remembering to do this. I've been thinking of making some eye-catching signs to remind myself, or some "prayer beads" where each bead is a chore :P

You may be asking, why not just reward yourself? Well, I've tried that. I find it really hard to give myself something I already have, or enjoy something I spend money on that I wouldn't already. So, oh well. It's complicated. Rewards work best, I think, if it's a parent, boss, or teacher giving them - someone with autonomous authority
posted by rebent at 6:41 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Grats on getting in the guardian, btw!
posted by rebent at 6:45 AM on April 24, 2011


Heads up for anyone still reading this. We've updated the Android app to provide fuller functionality, and I encourage anyone who has so far held off to give it a try.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:47 PM on May 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


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