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Brain Chemistry, Financial Incentives, and Resolutions

Source: Washington Post, January 4, 2011
Washington Post article about doomed New Year’s resolutions outlined how dopamine pathways in the brain establish reward systems that make habits difficult to break. Rewards for actions are critical to establishing habits, suggesting that financial incentives might be a useful tool to change behaviors. Invited to comment, Kevin Volpp noted that environmental factors also play an important role in health behaviors. In citing his research among GE employees, which demonstrated that paying smokers to quit increased the number of successful quitters, and a similar project aimed at weight-loss that showed no difference between those who were paid and those who were not, Volpp explained that while smoking in public is becoming more difficult, high-calorie low-cost food is ubiquitous and easily obtained.