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MORE THAN

WILL ALONE

Those struggling to stick to their New

Year's resolution might take comfort

in scientists' assertion that will power

has very little to do with a person's

character. Professor Nick Chater of

Warwick Business School asserts that

the environment is a far bigger factor in

determining whether people are able

to stick to their diet or exercise regime.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's The Human

Zoo, he commented. "Conditions and

the environment have more of an effect

than we think. A 'fundamental attribution

error' means people consistently give

people's character as the determining

factor [i.e that they have no will power]

but external factors are very important.

The environment we live in is nudging us

one way or another depending on what

signals are present."

As a Professor of Behavioural Science,

Chater has undertaken experimental work

on how our will power is affected by the

amount by which our memory is taken

up by other things. He says, "Will powe

requires paying attention. If you exert a lot

of will power in one dimension of your life,

like dieting, then other areas of your life

will tend to miss out. Your will power is a

finite resource."

Ed Gardiner, of the Behavioural

Design Lab, a collaboration between

Warwick Business School and the Design

Council, believes sticking to a New Year's

resolution involves changing your own

environment. She says, "We think our

actions are simply the result of our own

intentions, but they are influenced by

many environmental factors or nudges-.

Once you understand those factors then

you can start to manipulate them. If you

want to quit drinking, don't have wine in

the fridge when you start cooking, or join

a gym that's on your way home."

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