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Can Peer Pressure Improve Mental Health Treatment?

June 4, 2014|Counseling & Psychotherapy

An interesting new blog posting on the Harvard Business Review site highlights many ways that peer pressure changes our behavior.

For example, peer pressure and competition with others has been shown to increase exercise and diet habits, saving rates and financial decisions and much more.

If peer pressure can change behavior in these ways and areas of life, it seems likely that peer pressure and competition could be harnessed in ways that would augment mental health treatment or encourage people to seek mental health treatment. Hopefully, future research will investigate ways to use peer pressure and social networks to benefit mental health.

Excerpt from post below:

A new form of social data that harnesses the power of peer pressure is emerging as a potentially powerful way to change behavior and spur the growth of new categories of products. It works because peer pressure data goes beyond demonstrating the functions of a product to satisfy deeply powerful emotional or social needs we may not even realize we have.

Many people are aware by now, for instance, that utility companies across the U.S. have been taking advantage of peer pressure to reduce energy consumption by including charts in electricity bills showing how energy efficient you are compared to your neighbors. Companies such as Opower and My Energy have developed these data systems, and they can now point to studies that show the combination of data and social pressure reduces home energy use.

Presented in the right way, peer data can also be effective in changing consumer financial habits, such as encouraging a higher savings rate. Voya Financial formerly ING U.S. has one such application, called CompareMe, that promises to increase retirement savings rates by drawing on survey data to compare your rate to that of people with similar incomes, and to the average in your state. Putnam Investments has developed a “How Do I Compare?” feature for its 401K clients. Academic studies are showing that the peer effect works in motivating people to save more.

via The Persuasive Pressure of Peer Rankings – Robyn Bolton – Harvard Business Review.

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