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How A Text Message Can Trigger Behavior Change

Published 11/29/2017

In today's episode, we continue talking about behavior change. This time, we're discussing how a simple reminder can make a huge difference.

Today's episode is sponsored by Fuse! Build native iOS and Android apps with less code and better collaboration. Head over to spec.fm/fuse to learn more today!

New Promo Code: “dt” will give you listeners 70% off for 12 months. 70%!!! The code must be redeemed by December 31st 2017.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What does a text message have anything to do with how much money you save? That's what we're talking about on today's show in kind of a roundabout way. My name is Jonathan Cutrell, you're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to help you become a better developer. We're not going to go through all of the details of what that means in today's episode because I'm really excited to get into the content for today. This is an extension of the previous episode of Developer Tea. We talked about practical advice for changing your habits, changing your behavior, and we're going to continue that discussion today. There's tons of research on how behavior change occurs and how we can encourage it both on larger scales with a group of people or perhaps if you're a leader of a company and you have employees, you may want to nudge your employees in one direction or the other. That is the larger scale of behavioral change, but also in ourselves, our own behavior change. How can we do the things that, as we said on the last episode, in our slow thinking, in our intentional and deliberate goal setting thinking, how can we accomplish those things, even if those things are relatively straightforward? For example, taking your vitamins every day. This is a very common example. Taking your vitamins or drinking enough water every day is a very simple habit and yet we often fail to accomplish these habits. This is true in our software projects too. It doesn't really take that long to write a spec and we know that it's going to cover us. It's going to help us significantly and we also know that there's plenty of research that says it doesn't really slow us down. In the long run, if you play out the course of an average software project, writing tests very often doesn't slow us down most of the time it doesn't. Why don't we take the time just as a general rule? Why don't we take the time to write those tests? I know I have had issues with this in the past and changing that behavior is essential. Being able to change that behavior rather, this is an essential skill to becoming better. Because becoming better means changing and changing means doing something different. That is behavior change. Of course, a lot of your behavior change comes as a result of learning. You may learn a new way to do something and therefore you are improving by employing your new knowledge and there's no barrier. You're not changing an old behavior, just implementing a new behavior and in a way you are changing an old behavior before maybe you were reading about that content and now you're actually using that content. But most of the time around the middle of your career especially, a large portion of your time is going to be spent the same way every day. You're going to have a routine that you're going to fall into and once again those habits are going to become reinforced over and over every day. How do we become lifelong learners, become lifelong changers and continuously refine our habits, refine the way we are spending our time. That's what we're talking about. So I asked you how a text message has anything to do with your savings. Another good example is the marshmallow. How does a marshmallow have anything to do with your habits? Maybe you've heard this one before, it's a commonly cited experiment. It was an experiment done with children in a room and they were given a marshmallow now or two marshmallows later and deferring the two marshmallows of course if you're thinking from a perspective of how can I get the most marshmallow possible as a kid then you're going to defer but the problem was you had to wait. And the single marshmallow now was a whole lot more gratifying and therefore a much stronger vision for the child to have than the two marshmallows later. Now as adults we hear this study and we think oh yeah well that's because the children are not mature enough they don't have the ability to see those two marshmallows but this bias is something that all humans actually share. We have a present bias, we bias ourselves towards what is happening today. It's easier for us to see the effects, it's easier for us to connect to them because what's happening today I'm much more aware of it, I'm much more aware of the impact it has on my life and I can anticipate the positives or I can anticipate the negatives a lot more clearly. And that's why a text message has everything to do with your savings. And before we talk about that I want to talk about today's sponsor. Today's episode is sponsored by Fuse. If you've been creating apps with Xcode or with Android Studio or another mobile platform then you know that these things haven't changed in a long time. Not significantly at least and you've probably built a habit around using them and so changing that habit may be a little bit difficult but hopefully you will see the benefit of Fuse. Fuse allows you to write less code and collaborate more. You'll see the work you're doing much more directly with Fuse. It's an all in one platform and with a premium option from Fuse you can even have some pre-built and relatively rich UI components that you can drop straight into your project. So things like stickers on your camera become extremely easy to do with Fuse. This is an all in one platform as we said before. It works on Mac, it works on PC. And Fuse just went from beta into 1.0. So along with this move they've announced Fuse Premium. This is a premium offering from Fuse. As we said before this premium plan comes with Fuse Studio. This is the editor from Fuse that allows you to use those UI components. They even have premium charting options so you can drop charts directly into your project. And you can integrate with Xcode and Android Studio which makes it possible to use Fuse projects inside your existing native app projects. So you're not going to have to throw away the work that you've already done with Xcode or Android Studio. The Fuse platform itself and the free plan they stay in firmly on their own two feet. In other words you don't necessarily need the paid plan. The paid plan is meant for teams and people who have steady income coming into their businesses. So if you're new to this, if you want to try Fuse, if you are a brand new mobile application developer, I would actually fall into this category. I don't do a lot of mobile app development. I do mostly web development. So I would go and download the Fuse platform, the free version. And you can find this at FuseTools.com slash plans. Now if you decide that you want to go with a premium version, Fuse is offering a huge like a super steep discount to you as a developer to you listener. You can use the promo code DT. This is going to give you 70% off for 12 months, 70% off, not 30%, 70% off for 12 months. The codes must be redeemed by the end of this year though. So December 31st of 2017. So you've got just under two months to get those codes redeemed and to get 70% off of Fuse premium. Thank you so much to Fuse for sponsoring today's episode and for creating a great product. So we're talking about why a text message or a marshmallow has anything to do with your habits. What can you do to help that behavior change process? In the previous episode, we talked about the difference between that fast and slow thinking. And then we talked about how you can make your habits default. How do we can reduce the amount of difficulty rather than trying to increase the amount of drive, reduce the amount of difficulty and make our good habits our everyday, our regular kind of process that we go through. So today's episode, we're going to talk about something slightly different from that. And it is going to increase the drive, but not in a motivational way. That's not the way that we're going to do this. The problem that a lot of people face as a result of this present bias, right? The wanting the single marshmallow now, rather than the two marshmallows later and seeing the benefit of doing something earlier rather than later, we want to combat this issue. Not only present bias has this issue, but also your general behavior from a minute to minute basis is going to fail to see the future automatically, right? You're going to fail to envision the future automatically. This is not something our brains are wired to do. We don't naturally think well into the future and we don't naturally connect each and every action to an outcome. That's not the way our brains are wired. Brains are wired for survival. And so for us to be able to see those outcomes, we have to envision them. Okay, so this does sound a little bit motivational. That's not the way it's intended. Instead, what I want you to do is create a very clear picture of why you're even doing this habit. What is the reason that you want to take your vitamins every day or what is the reason that you should brush your teeth every morning? What is the reason that you should write those specs? So this can be a motivation of pain, avoiding pain in the future. It can be a motivation of increasing your agency and your autonomy and your mastery in the future. For example, the slogging through learning a new language, it's very hard to do. It's very hard to stick with that habit, especially when you're not experiencing any kind of flow state. You feel like you're completely stuck. It's difficult to continue in that habit. But if you clarify for yourself what a picture is in the future, at some point kind of distant of why, what is this learning going to lead to? What is this habit going to lead to? There's some significant research that says that you're much more likely to stick with that habit. If it's a habit that you are already practicing but not practicing very well, then you're much more likely to increase the quality of your practice in that habit. In a paper called Getting to the Top of Mind, this is from 2010, Getting to the Top of Mind, How Reminders Increase Saving, the authors conducted three field experiments looking at increasing savings with text message reminders. What this was was a basic study where they would send a reminder. They had three groups of people. They would have a group that didn't have any reminder at all. They had a generic reminder and then they had a goal-specific reminder. Imagine getting no text message or getting a text message that says, hey, you should save some money out of this check that's coming up from your job. Then finally, getting a text message that says, remember that you're saving for evocation. They found that these goal-specific text messages, the vacation text message, was much more effective than the generic ones. In fact, the increase in savings was actually two and a half times more. If I'm looking at this data correctly, the increase for the generic reminder was around 6%, the increase for the goal-specific reminder was 16%. Again, that's almost three times as much. It's a massive jump, a massive difference in that behavior. In another study, and this one is about savings as well, a group of people was shown a slider that showed how much they would want to save towards their retirement account. This is in a hypothetical account, but because it's hypothetical for both groups, the difference is significant. The second group was shown a picture of themselves today and then a computer-generated age-progressed rendering of themselves in the future. The idea being we want to show you a picture of yourself when you're retired. Because they changed the slider from low to high, they would make that rendering, that picture of the person when they're older, either smile or frown more. They're not taking away money from them. They're allowing the person to change that slider. This is only a rendering. This isn't any kind of specific manipulation technique other than to suggest to the person that less money in the future is going to make them less happy in the future, and more money in the future is going to make them more happy in the future. As a general rule, we can agree that having more money in retirement is probably not a bad idea, especially with statistics about retirement. As it turns out, this had a massive effect on how much people were willing to save. In fact, people were willing to save over twice as much, over twice as much when they saw this rendering of themselves. This is a huge behavioral change. If we can elicit this kind of change in ourselves by creating a more clear picture of the future. Take those goals that you are trying to actually use those habits to accomplish and make them very, very clear. It's going to have a significant effect on your ability to execute on those habits. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I hope this was interesting. I hope you liked this subject. Again, this is a subject I'm pretty passionate about. Behavioral economics, something that I believe is incredibly relevant, especially to developers. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you again to Fuse for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. With Fuse, you can get started with your mobile application development for free today. Less code and more collaboration with Fuse. Remember, Fuse Premium is 70% off. If you use the code DT before the end of the year, Fuse Premium is 70% off for 12 months by the way, a whole year of Fuse Premium. Thank you so much for listening. Make sure you subscribe if you don't want to miss out on future episodes of Developer Tea. We're going to continue talking about behavioral economics in future episodes as well. Thank you so much for listening. And until next time, enjoy your tea.