Are you struggling to achieve self-set life improvement goals, such as getting some early morning exercise or saving for retirement? A new paper suggests that people who struggle to achieve their life improvement goals may benefit by copying the successful strategies used by their friends.
The copy-paste prompt
The study, which appeared in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, shows that encouraging people to find and emulate the exercise strategies used by their acquaintances increased the amount of time they spent exercising. The authors refer to this wise nudge as the “copy-paste prompt.”
Katie S. Mehr, a Ph.D. candidate at The Wharton School, and colleagues explained that copy-paste prompts are virtually costless, widely applicable, and easy to implement with the potential to help a person achieve outcomes ranging from academic success to healthy eating.
There are several reasons the authors cited why copy-paste prompts may be more effective compared to other methods in terms of bolstering goal achievement. One of the reasons is that behaviors become more appealing to one person when they learned it from observation. Learning from role models also increases the likelihood of using the strategy or it increases the expectation of their potential. The information becomes more goal-relevant and customized because people or consumers can select friends whose behaviors they wanted to mimic.
However, the authors believe that people may not take the full advantage of observing and copying others within their social network.
The longitudinal study
In their longitudinal study, the authors asked more than 1,000 participants how many hours they spent exercising in the last week. Then, they were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions: the simple control condition, the quasi-yoked control condition, and the copy-paste prompt condition.
For the copy-paste prompt condition, study participants were asked to read a phrase, which highlights that they can learn an effective strategy or hack that their acquaintance uses as a motivation to exercise. They were instructed that, for the next two days, they should pay attention to how their friends get themselves to work out or they may ask them directly for their motivational strategies and tips.
For the quasi-yoked control conditions, participants read a phrase, which highlights that they can learn an effective strategy that will motivate them to exercise. "We'd like you to get ready to learn a new strategy to motivate you to exercise,” the sentence reads, without the instruction of paying attention to the motivation used by their friends.
The results showed that the participants who received the copy-paste prompt exercised more in the following week compared to those assigned either a simple control condition or quasi-yoked control condition. The authors wrote that the advantages of the copy-paste prompts are mediated by the commitment to utilizing it, the frequency of the social interaction with individuals who regularly exercise, the effort into finding the technique, and the usefulness of the adopted exercise strategy as a whole.
It is possible that once a person learns to copy and paste the strategy in one domain, such as in exercise, they will be able to apply the same technique in other ways that will improve other outcomes. For instance, it will help them save more for their retirement.
Positive copying and why it happens
Positive thinking self-help community The Power of Positivity shares that “imitation is the best form of flattery.” If you are the one being emulated, you will notice that the positive copycat looks up to your work ethic and they will attempt to take pointers from you. They may ask where you got an outfit they like and then buy it. They may also mirror your body language to get to know you or be friendly to you. All these come with good intentions.
The psychologists behind The Power of Positivity explained that culture motivates a person to copy another. For instance, the minority cultures will imitate some qualities of the majority cultures to be accepted in society. That is why there is the saying, “When in Rome, do as Romans do.”
In terms of education, studies show that those of lower education levels tend to copy people with higher education levels as they are learning from those with more experience or knowledge than them. It can also help them get further ahead in the workplace as they pick up valuable skills crucial in their work.
Reciprocity and influencer marketing
The value of reciprocity is a key driver for the success of influencer marketing. Consumers follow, listen, and trust influencers. This is the reason why brands engage with influencers to help promote their services, products, or messages. To highlight the impact of influencers on global consumer purchasing, it was found by Statista that 45.4% micro-influencer followers said they tried something that was recommended by those influencers and 26.9% said they purchased something after seeing the post.
Take note, however, that copying can also be a negative trait if it is a bit too much. The negative copycat may lack a sense of self, so they copy anyone else to be more confident. Envy, poor self-esteem, and insecurity may be some factors behind why negative copying happens.
It’s true, your friends can influence or change your habits for better or worse. In a survey conducted in Saint Ursula Academy in Ohio, the US, the desire to “fit in” was the overarching theme why students experienced peer pressure. About 57.8% of the respondents agreed that they experienced peer pressure before and 40.7% strongly agreed that they were more outgoing when they were with their friends.
Humboldt State University’s social psychologist Amber Gaffney previously told BBC that the more a person draws their identity from a group, the more likely they are to uphold such values even if they are no longer around that group. For instance, if you identify yourself as a student from a certain university, then that is what you are going to take with you into most of your interactions with other people. That is from the lens of academic.
Beneath our awareness, our brain is constantly picking up the cues from the people around us to inform our behavior.