How to stick to your New Year’s Resolutions

Hi everyone, I’m back after a bit of a break for Christmas with a post that’s pretty relevant to this time of year.. how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions. If you want to exercise more, or stop smoking, then look no further -this is the post for you.

When we write down our resolutions, we tend to picture ourselves in a few months time, and how happy/healthier we will feel. But year after year, we fail to accomplish these goals – stats have shown that as many as 80% of New Year’s resolutions remain incomplete. If you seem to fall into this category, then I’ve linked an excellent article above from the UK Mental Health Foundation about how to make goals that will work for you.

So once you’ve decided on your realistic goal, for example getting more exercise, how can you use psychology to predict your success? One well known model is social psychology is the Theory of Planned Behaviour, developed by Icek Azjen (1991). This theory aimed to improve the predictive abilities of previous theories by adding the influence of our behavioural intentions. The process of changing behaviours according to this model is shown in the flow chart below:


As you can see from this diagram, this theory distinguishes between 3 different types of beliefs: behavioural, normative, and control. So therefore, our intentions to change behaviour are influenced by:

  1. Our attitudes towards that behaviour e.g. ‘I believe that exercising more will benefit me.. exercising is a positive behaviour’
  2. Other people’s attitudes towards this behaviour (subjective norm) e.g. ‘My family think I should exercise more.. most people view exercise as a positive behaviour’
  3. Our perceived control beliefs about the behaviour e.g. ‘I know I will be able to make time for exercise if I try’.

These beliefs then impact our intention to change our behaviours – for example if we believe that exercising more will benefit us, something which others agree with, and we believe we will be able to carry out the behaviour successfully, then our intention to change will be stronger. Therefore, we will be more likely to change our behaviour and achieve our goal. Studies have shown that it is our perceived behavioural control which mainly improves the prediction of actually carrying out behaviours from the intention to change, and is mainly applied to health behaviours such as stopping smoking or drinking too much.

I hope you found this post useful and that it will help you achieve your resolutions this year – let’s lower that 80%!


Pro-social behaviour

Would you help a stranger if it looked like they were in trouble? What if there were lots of other people around, and you thought they would be better suited to help, or they just didn’t look that worried?

Most people would be certain that regardless of the circumstances, they’d help someone in need. But is this actually the case?

Pro-social behaviour is when someone actively tries to help someone else, motivated by egoism (to benefit them) or altruism (to benefit someone else).

Helping in emergencies

Helping (or not) depends on certain factors:

– noticing that something is wrong

– defining it as an emergency

– deciding whether or not to take personal responsibility

– deciding what type of help to give

– implementing the decision.

If any of the first 3 steps don’t happen, then the victim will not be helped.

LatanΓ© and Darley (1976) identified 3 processes which cause people not to help in social situations:

  1. Diffusion of responsibility: the more people present, the more people think that they don’t need to help, as someone else will.
  2. Pluralistic ignorance: if there is high ambiguity about the situation then bystanders feel more uncertainty, and are less likely to help. As each bystander hesitates, they ‘model’ passivity for the others.
  3. Evaluation apprehension: other people being present causes you to feel uneasy, as they will witness your intervention if you choose to help.

These researchers provided evidence for this theory in a study in which participants were sat in a room while they completed a questionnaire. White smoke then started coming into the room through a vent, and they observed what the participant would do if they were alone, with two passive confederates (actors who were told not to react) or three naive participants.

If the participant was alone, then about 75% reported the smoke after 4 minutes. However, if they were with the two passive confederates, only 10% reported the smoke. This shows the influence of others on our behaviour.

Why do some people help?

Several studies have shown that being in a good mood increases your likelihood of helping. Isen and Levin (1972) used a mood induction method of failing or succeeding at a task to make participants in a good or bad mood. A confederate then dropped their books nearby. They found that participants in a good mood were more likely to help than those in a bad mood, and suggested that this is because their attention is turned outwards so will notice if someone needs help.

There is also a certain personality trait which makes people more likely to help. Isen et al (1997) identified 4 personality variables which are high in people who show pro-social behaviour:

  1. Social responsibility
  2. Belief in a just world
  3. Empathy and concern with others’ welfare
  4. Self-efficacy – confidence that their actions will be successful.

I hope you found this post interesting, did it made you think about when you would help others? Leave me a comment and let me know!