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Can copying your friends help you achieve your goals?

People often struggle to achieve life improvement goals for themselves, but what if they intentionally mimic the successful strategies of their friends, could it help them? A new study from Chicago University shows that encouraging people to find and imitate training strategies used by their friends increases the amount of time people spend exercising relative to passively receiving a training strategy. In the study, Katie S. Mehr, Amanda E. Geiser, Katherine L. Milkman, and Angela L. Duckworth introduce the "copy-paste prompt," a nudge that encourages people to develop a strategy for achieving goals. to search and imitate.

Copy-paste prompts “are easy to implement, virtually cost-free and widely applicable with the potential to improve outcomes ranging from healthy eating to academic success,” the authors write.”

Copy-paste prompts can be more effective than other methods of reinforcing goal achievement for several reasons:behavior is more engaging when learned from observation, plus learning from models raises both a person's expectations of their own abilities and the likelihood of the use of information. However, people may not take full advantage of the opportunities to observe and emulate others in their social network. In this case, copy-paste prompts can add value by helping people make better use of this resource. In addition, the information is more adapted and relevant to the target, as people select peers whose behavior they want to mimic.

In the authors' long-term study, more than 1,000 participants were asked how many hours they had spent exercising in the past week and were randomly assigned to one of three conditions:the copy-paste prompts, a quasi-strung control condition, or a simple control condition.

The participants who received the copy-paste prompts spent more time practicing the following week than participants assigned to a quasi-strung or simple control condition. “The benefits of copy-paste prompts are mediated by the usefulness of the exercise strategy adopted, the commitment to using it, the effort it takes to find it, and the frequency of social interaction with people who exercise regularly,” the authors write. .

Looking ahead, the authors write:"It may be that once a person learns to copy-paste in one domain (e.g., training), they will be able to apply this technique in a way that improves many other outcomes (e.g., retirement savings)."