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Currently showing: Funding longer lives

22 May 13 14:01

With possibilities of living longer and been healthier keep expanding researchers invest most of their time trying to understand the drivers behind these patterns. A single unique formula for health and long life does not exist, of course, as there is an apparent correlation between a number of factors such as genetics, environment, lifestyle and others. The behavioral component should not be excluded from this list though as lifespan improvements will definitely depend on individual behaviors, ranging from simple diet changes to adaptation to the various technological innovations.

I recently attended the Health and Care conference where Tim Herford, a world known behavioral economist and senior FT columnist, gave a very interesting and engaging speech. The main topic of his talk was adaptation in healthcare and in life. Part of his speech was devoted on the way in which group pressure can destroy individual opinion. One of the key points he was referred to was the power of conformity, in other words the ability to match attitudes, beliefs and behaviors to group norms. People are often reluctant to "be different", they are hesitating to suggest a way to something "new".

The attached video illustrates the conformity concept in a funny but interesting way. This is based on the "Elevator Experiment" conducted in 1962 by social psychology pioneer Solomon Asch and the Candid Camera team!

Thinking about the power of conformity how can this influence the openness of people to the various medical innovations? Can this have a positive impact as, for example, adaptation to specific healthy behaviors is accelerated due to mass acceptance? Or is it more likely to have a negative effect due to the loss of individual "identity"?

Elevator Experiment

Category: Funding longer lives


Jennifer Rodney - 28 May 2013, 5:40 a.m.

This video is quite something! Amusing on the one hand but also a bit of a shock to see it so clearly illustrated how easily behaviour can be influenced through herd mentality. The audience is laughing but I wonder if they - or I - would be immune to that sort of reaction in a similar situation.

I'm intrigued by the idea of scientists, psychologists etc. finding ways to influence (positive) behaviour and habits on a larger scale. It makes me wonder how could they create enough change so that group think starts to kick in? I also wonder about questions of morality and legality - there has been some outcry in the United States for example about the erosion of individual rights as the government attempts to pass laws to encourage healthier eating/drinking habits. Perhaps what would be needed would be a really clever marketing campaign. And if this technique is applicable for increasing healthy habits, it could also be used to help society practice more environmentally responsible behaviour too.

Patrick Reichenmiller - 31 May 2013, 8:10 a.m.

Thanks for posting, it's an amusing video and an even more fascinating experiment. While this is an extreme situation in a confined space, I do think it shows that humans are essentially social beings and seem to have an innate urge to fit in, relate to others, share a common human experience, conform. Is it necessarily a bad thing? Perhaps not if we consider that social isolation and loneliness are one of the most common causes of depression. In today's world, we're seeing more and more people living alone, both young and old (, which is is very different from the past when three generations lived under the same roof or at least in close proximity to one another. This trend will have a massive impact on public health; by 2030, depression is estimated to become the second biggest cause of disease burden in the world. So if modern living is contributing to more loneliness and depression, what can be done about it? Will we see a reversal back to traditional forms of living or new adaptations thereof? Will we see the rise of befriending services? Or are there other creative ways of addressing it?

Nicola Oliver - 6 Jun 2013, 3:51 p.m.

Patrick I couldn't agree more regarding the significant impact that isolation can have on public health; have a read of the article I posted on 'sociable housing' about a concept known as 'co-housing'. Co-housing is a form of "intentional community" created and run by its residents matching older with younger and/or vulnerable people for the benefit of sociability and practical and emotional support.

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