After reflecting on the quote from Dr. Thomas Plante about social engineering and learning about behavior intervention, I believe that both approaches can lead to effective behavior change depending on what the behavior is. I agree with Dr. Plante’s quote to an extent because it can be very hard for people to make significant, lasting behavior changes in their lives using just willpower alone, even if they know what they’re doing is bad for their health. However, even with social engineering, individuals could still find ways to stick to their unhealthy behaviors.
One example is using social engineering to add an extra tax on sugary drinks. This approach would only be effective in somewhat reducing the consumption of them, not eliminating it completely. In this example, social engineering alone wouldn’t be enough to significantly change people’s behavior of consuming sugary drinks because the individual would still have to display enough self-motivation to not just pay the extra tax to get the drink that they want. I think that some better venues for health-habit modification in that situation would be the family of the individual or their physician. If the person’s family is also willing to eliminate the consumption of sugary drinks, they would all be able to motivate each other and stick to it since everyone is participating in the health behavior change. A physician could also help by suggesting alternatives to sugary drinks to the patient such as sparkling or infused water in order to help them transition off of soda and sugary juices.
However in some situations, social engineering would be more effective than other behavior interventions that primarily rely on motivating people to change a behavior on their own. An example of this would be lowering the speed limit to reduce the amount of accidents leading to death and injury. Social engineering works better for this situation because people wouldn’t be motivated to slow down unless they are reinforced by the law to drive slower. Most people abide by the speed limit laws in order to avoid getting a speeding ticket or a fine. Safe driving campaigns and interventions might have a very slight impact on the amount of accidents due to speeding, but the impact of social engineering in this example is far greater and more effective.
In conclusion, I partially agree with Dr. Plante’s quote about the effectiveness of social engineering, however I also agree that there is value in people learning to self-monitor their own health behaviors and practice self- reinforcement. Self-monitoring and self-reinforcement are both part of cognitive-behavior therapy which emphasizes self-control. It is important for individuals to feel like they have control over their decisions and are properly educated on the outcomes of unhealthy behaviors instead of everything being legally mandated and decided for them by the government.
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