Using Predictive Imaging for Behavior Change
At AprilAge, we spend a lot of time thinking about and developing software that is used as a tool for behavior change in health education. It's no secret that there are multiple and complex factors that can influence people's health behaviors: from doctors' advice, to monetary incentives, to peer pressure from family and friends, to messages communicated via the media. There are also varied approaches to influencing human behavior in the health sphere - here are a few that we have learned over the years in working with health practitioners, educators, insurance companies and businesses who use our APRIL® visualization software to show people how they'll look as they age naturally, vs. with the effects of obesity, smoking, or heavy sun exposure.
- Your future appearance, showing the effects of smoking, obesity or heavy sun exposure, is a great motivator to saying "I don't want to look like that"
- People generally don't want to see themselves aging in any way other than naturally. Seeing yourself as an "old smoker", for example, is a wake up call to the realities of your behavior today affecting your appearance of tomorrow.
- The use of predictive imaging between health provider and patient is an excellent catalyst for a discussion about chronic disease prevention (i.e. it's not just your appearance that will be affected; here's what's happening on the inside too).
- In obesity research, it has been proven that when people are taught to imagine, or simulate the future, they can improve their ability to delay gratification. And, "...we can teach people how to reduce delay discounting, where they learn how to mentally simulate the future in order to moderate present behavior."(Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor of pediatrics and chief of behavioral medicine at University of Buffalo).
The APRIL® Face Aging Software is used by hundreds of clients in more than 25 countries as a primary tool for affecting behavior change to help people realize their goals of living a healthier lifestyle today. Independent controlled studies using APRIL® have found, for example, a higher quit rate among smokers who were exposed to the facial aging visualization than those who were not.
In the end, changing human behavior is very hard to do. However, if the end goal is to live a healthy lifestyle today in order to live a healthier lifestyle tomorrow, then seeing your "future self" is a great way to kick start the motivation in order to do so.
Photo via Spence Smith www.spencesmith.com