Powerful Questions, Anticipated Regret Can Change Behavior

One of the foundations of psychotherapy and executive coaching is the notion that provocative, well-timed, penetrating questions can provoke insight and initiative behavior change.

David Cooperrider

David Cooperrider

One example of a systematic approach to high-impact questioning is Appreciative Inquiry, developed by Case Western’s David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney, and it has been integrated into interpersonal conversations including counseling, coaching, and therapy.

University of Leeds’s Tracy Sandberg and Mark Conner demonstrated the impact of provocative questions when they asked women about anticipated regret if they ignored a preventive health assessment.

Tracy Sandberg

Tracy Sandberg

More than 4,250 women received an invitation for cervical screening and  information leaflet.
A sub-group also received a Theory of Planned Behavior questionnaire developed by University of Massachusetts’s Icek Ajzen.
Another sub-group received both the questionnaire and additional inquiries about their anticipated regrets if they didn’t participate in the screening.

Icek Ajzen

Icek Ajzen

Attendance rates were higher for those who completed the questionnaire about anticipated behavior, and significantly greater for those who also completed the regret questions.
This may be an example of FoMO – Fear of Missing Out, described by University of Essex’s Andrew K. Przybylski and Valerie Gladwell with Kou Murayama of UCLA and University of Rochester.

Andrew Przybylski

Andrew Przybylski

Likewise, “self- prophecy” questions about intention to cheat were associated with reduced cheating among college students, found University of California, Irvine’s Eric Spangenberg and Carl Obermiller of Seattle University.

The question–behavior effect was further demonstrated in a meta-analytic study by Spangenberg with SUNY’s Ioannis Kareklas, Berna Devezer of University of Idaho, and Washington State University’s David E. Sprott.

Eric Spangenberg

Eric Spangenberg

“When you ask a question, it…creates a spring-loaded intention,” and reminds of social norms and past shortcomings, posited Sprott.
It’s that disconnect between what we should do and what we know we have done that motivates us.”

David Sprott

David Sprott

Norm-reinforcing questions are often effective in encouraging proactive behavior aligned with recognized best practices, such as a Public Service Announcement endorsing pre-school vaccination:  Ninety-five percent of parents get their kids vaccinated before kindergarten.
Will you make sure your child is up to date?

William Miller

William Miller

These pointed questions are an “active ingredient” of  Motivational Interviewing developed by University of New Mexico’s William Miller and Stephen Rollnick of Cardiff University, and have been associated with heightened motivation to reduce alcohol and drug consumption.

These finding point to the power of carefully-designed questions to provoke deeper self-reflection and related behavior change.

-*What questions have you used to encourage behavior change?

Follow-share-like http://www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

Related Posts:

Twitter:  @kathrynwelds
Google+
LinkedIn Groups Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook
Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

©Kathryn Welds

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s