Bringing The World Home To You

© 2024 WUNC North Carolina Public Radio
120 Friday Center Dr
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
919.445.9150 | 800.962.9862
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Psychology Behind Making Healthier Choices

Courtesy of Dan Ariely

Summer is filled with temptation. We know that fresh fruit is a healthier choice than ice cream. A ripe watermelon can be just as sweet, but often times we pass it by for a double scoop in a waffle cone. The barrage of pool parties and cookouts combined with summer vacation may leave many struggling to make and keep health commitments.

Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, says the process of losing 20 pounds can take as long as a year and many find it discouraging. He is working to uncover the psychology behind healthy choices and provide solutions using technology, apps and social media.

Of the technology being used, Ariely recently unveiled a numberless scale called Shapa. The scale comes with an app that encourages small, manageable steps, and rewards users based on behavioral changes with less emphasis on weight loss. Success is determined on personal progress over a three week period not the number on the scale. He believes people know what is good and bad for them, but it is the execution of these rules that cause people to go awry. Ariely shares the discoveries he has made about the psychology and behavioral economics behind weight loss and how to overcome the struggle to manage health.  

Note: This segment originally aired July 10, 2018.

WUNC Editor’s Note – Adapted from NPR
Aug. 2, 2023

Since this article first published, researchers have raised concerns about a number of studies authored by Dan Ariely. Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, was a frequent guest on WUNC’s former talk show The State of Things, appearing at least five times between 2015-2019.

One study in question included data from an insurance company that purported to show that people are more truthful when they sign an ethics declaration at the beginning of a form than at the end. In an independent review, a group of researchers found evidence of data fabrication in that study. You can read more about their findings here, along with Dan Ariely's response. The insurance company that provided the data, The Hartford, released a statement to NPR’s Planet Money in July 2023. In that statement, the company said that it had done a review of its records and that “there appear to be significant changes made to the size, shape and characteristics of our data after we provided it and without our knowledge or consent.” You can hear the full Planet Money story and read the full statement from The Hartford here.

Additionally, a second study – in which Ariely reported reduced cheating among test-takers asked to recall the Ten Commandments before taking the test – has not stood up to replication by other researchers. You can read more about that here.

Dana is an award-winning producer who began as a personality at Rock 92. Once she started creating content for morning shows, she developed a love for producing. Dana has written and produced for local and syndicated commercial radio for over a decade. WUNC is her debut into public radio and she’s excited to tell deeper, richer stories.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
Related Stories
More Stories