May 22, 2020
Today’s episode features a
discussion with Dr. Dan
Ariely – you know that
name by now right? We talk about the numberless smart scale from
the company he co-founded, Shapa, and all the research behind
I am very excited to introduce
you to Dan Ariely, one of the best known behavioral economists
in the world whom I have mentioned many times on the first 100
episodes of the show, and I know I will continue to do so after he
helped me kick off these next hundred. He wrote
Irrational and several
other books and has done some amazing research.
As I mentioned in the opening,
Dan has worked on a huge amount of projects, and while this
conversation could have gone in a million directions, we are
specifically talking about Shapa. The company he co-founded showcases a
numberless scale that was created to change the way we all think
about our health and make it easier to do something that many of us
find scary…stepping on the scale.
The discussion ties back to a
bunch of past episodes (including loss aversion, partitioning, the
focusing illusion, herding) as well as on an experiment I did which
was influenced by one of Dan’s studies from Kenya. We also talk
about overall health (emotional, physical, financial) and how it is
all related. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did,
and thank you again for joining me Dan!
- [02:18] In this episode we are specifically
talking about Shapa.
A company Dan co-founded for a numberless scale that was created to
change the way we all think about our health.
- [03:26] Shapa has many components. How would a social
scientist approach helping people lose weight?
- [05:04] The struggle for health is a daily
struggle. You can’t be healthy five days a week. It doesn’t work.
Your healthy life needs to start in the morning.
- [07:08] They started studying the bathroom
scale. They learned it is a good idea to stand on the scale every
morning, not at night.
- [08:01] The second thing they learned is that
weight fluctuates from 2-8 pounds a day. (wow!)
- [09:38] They also learned that people think
their weight will change very fast if they go on a diet. The
reality is that it can take 8 days to two weeks to see
- [12:31] A year where nothing bad happens is an
- [12:36] The story of obesity in the U.S. is a
story of gaining a little bit throughout the year and not losing -
especially in November and December.
- [13:39] Shapa created this 5 point scale which
includes, “congratulations nothing bad happened!” They tested it
and the studies were great.
- [15:34] We are obsessed with absolute levels.
People usually want to know how what they are doing is improving
their health and they want to be motivated.
- [16:55] When people go to the doctor they get
stressed and their blood pressure goes up. If you go to the doctor
and you are the kind of person that gets stressed because you’re
seeing a doctor, they might prescribe you blood pressure medicine
because you are stressed because of the doctor not because you are
really stressed usually.
- [18:29] The way they start the process
with Shapa is that they ask people to tell them about
- [19:54] Suggestions are sorted by the
probability that you will take them and then they give you
- [20:07] They focus on small changes and do it
for two weeks and then add the next one.
- [22:53] Look with fresh eyes from social
science about little things in life and then use the digital
revolution to really change things.
- [24:51] The problem is that the scale has
become so negative and the numbers are so
- [25:44] How much do you want to be in a race
where the best you can do is not that bad?
- [27:59] We need to change our thinking about
finances and health. We need to do more things that give people a
sense of success and achievement.
- [30:34] Finances and health are both long-term
and often painful struggles; we need strong motivation to achieve
- [32:17] What are the incentives we can give
people to behave in a certain way?
- [33:30] Shapa has five levels and they each
have a different color.
- [34:39] Mostly we want to have no change with
improvements from time to time.
- [35:12] Focus on the things where you can make
the biggest behavioral impact.
- [37:02] The feeling of success is important to
keep people motivated.
- [39:46] It is time to fix some of the habits we
got wrong during the coronavirus crisis. It is time to take care of
ourselves and feel better about ourselves.
- [43:10] It always comes back in this way, and
you never know what is around the corner.
- [43:33] If you are working on a
health journey as well, with a Shapa or on your own, let’s support each other and do
this together - connect with me on social media (links
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