People Constantly Underestimate How Much They Benefit From Being Kind

Defensiveness is a big barrier to self-improvement, Yoona Kang, a postdoc at the Annenberg School for Communication at Penn, tells Inverse. Specifically, her new research focuses on the question of how to make people more receptive to behavioral interventions. The results of her team’s findings were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “When you tell a smoker that smoking is bad, these kinds of messages are kind of implying that ‘what you’re doing isn’t good for you,’” Kang tells Inverse. “People are generally, fundamentally, motivated to feel good about themselves. And they’ll fight against these threats to maintain this kind of positive outlook.” In the case of this latest study, Kang’s interventions focused on getting people to lead less sedentary lives by trying to prime them in certain ways, for example encouraging them to think about their values or encouraging them to think more compassionately.


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