The science of psych

Why We Form New Year’s Resolutions

The running joke about New Year’s resolutions is that they don’t outlast the hangover. But if you’re going to make a resolution to improve yourself, New Year’s Eve is a good time to do it. Recent research helps explains why we pick this date for personal renovation, and how we can restart the clock if we slip up. Read More

New Year's Resolutions

I wonder if they tested the group effect? Could people simply be making drastic changes in their lives because "everyone else is doing it"? I believe that a lot of people don't keep to these resolutions because they never wanted to do them in the first place. They were simply trying to fit in with their cohorts. I feel that as a society, we fall into this rut of believe that people will like us if we act like them. However, there is also the complete opposite dynamic: those who do exactly what people don't want us to do because we "don't care", when in all actuality, we do care, or we wouldn't be attempting to get them to notice. This has all been said before, numerous times. I prefer to actually not care. You like me or you don't. I'm just curious if this was taken into consideration and observed in any form.

Bandwagon Effect

Hi Kayla. That's a good point. They write: "future research could explore if and how social influence reinforces the fresh start effect. For example, a spike in goal pursuit on January 1 may partly reflect a social bandwagon effect. Though other fresh start moments highlighted in the current research (e.g., the beginning of the week or month) attract less attention, the fresh start effects we observe across three studies could be magnified in part by a social contagion process whereby others’ engagement in aspirational activities stimulates increases in our own goal motivation." There's probably also less of a bandwagon effect on birthdays, since they're not shared with others.

Conformist behavior

Hi Kayla and Matthew,

You both make very good, relevant, and credible points. Narrowing it down even further, I believe it to be general conformist behavior. Conforming is much more of a choice, as opposed to obedience. As said, people obviously want to fit in. This is particularly true in younger years.

I'd be interested to see the data on age, gender, nationality. However, we all know what the motivating factor is. It's become tradition. But, it's not one that all follow, as some (like me) make resolutions/smart goals/plans at whatever time they are needed.

Take Care,


The importance of holidays

Many times I have heard that events like NewYears ,Xmas and Thanksgiving are just Hallmark holidays. That has been said either to soothe a person alone when others have the structure of groups or defensively, like "bah humbug."

But I think this is fundamentally and psychologically wrong.

Hallmark's founders "got" human nature and capitalized on it. Someone smart knew that humans need markers of time and that to go through life cycles alone is painful and scary and not natural. Hallmark capitalized on the fact that in eras gone by tribal rituals regarding the changes in the sun and moon were awesome markers of changes in time and hence human mortality and life cycles. These celebrations were often group physiologically charged arousals ingrained in our body and soul. Hallmark recognized that humans tend to connection for safety and meaning in times of uncertainty from change.
Throughout time, humans have needed to mark the passage of time by being cognizant of moon phases, eclipses, and other natural events. It gave us a sense of cycle, impermanence, and change. As it is natural to want tribe to go with you through significant life changing events,in ancient times, festivals developed around the harvests and moon and sun. These were group festivals. As the Industrial Age replaced the agricultural times, holidays were less agricultural and solar related but still were needed to help us cope with internal and external changes and the stress thereof.
I think they are essential for us to stop and become aware of how important we are to each other for strength and safety in times of rapid change. It will be more essential, I believe, as cyber time replaces time determined by phases of the sun and moon for us all to accept that we are part not apart of natures rhythms. I think that as instant communication allows us to believe we can be with someone anytime anywhere it obscures the fact that being with someone is not in text but rather in the warmth of human contact, in the sound of human voices, in the treasure of companionship.

May we all find reasons to gather and share food over the new year.
May my email not replace hugs and smiles.

Sent from my iPad
Barbara L. Blum, Ph.D
1212 799-45607

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Matthew Hutson is a science journalist in New York City.


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