Mind, Behaviour and Health: A Randomised Experiment

70 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2016  

Yonas Alem

Göteborg University - Department of Economics and Statistics

Hannah Behrendt

University of Edinburgh

Michèle Belot

University of Edinburgh

Anikó Bíró

University of Edinburgh

Abstract

Behavioural attitudes towards risk and time, as well as behavioural biases such as present bias, are thought to be important drivers of unhealthy lifestyle choices. This paper makes the first attempt to explore the possibility of training the mind to alter these attitudes and biases, and health-related behaviours in particular, using a randomized controlled experiment. The training technique we consider is a well-known psychological technique called "mindfulness", which is believed to improve self-control and reduce stress. We conduct the experiment with 139 participants, half of whom receive a four-week mindfulness training, while the other half are asked to watch a four-week series of historical documentaries. We evaluate the impact of our interventions on risk-taking and inter-temporal decisions, as well as on a range of measures of health-related behaviours. We find evidence that mindfulness training reduces perceived stress, but only weak evidence on its impact on behavioural traits and health-related behaviours. Our findings have significant implications for a new domain of research on training the mind to alter behavioural traits and biases that play important roles in lifestyle.

Keywords: health-related behaviours, behavioural traits, present bias, stress, experiment

JEL Classification: C81, C91, D81, I10, I12

Suggested Citation

Alem, Yonas and Behrendt, Hannah and Belot, Michèle and Bíró, Anikó, Mind, Behaviour and Health: A Randomised Experiment. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2803851

Yonas Alem (Contact Author)

Göteborg University - Department of Economics and Statistics ( email )

Box 640
Vasagatan 1, E-building, floor 5 & 6
Göteborg, 40530
Sweden

Hannah Behrendt

University of Edinburgh

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9JY
United Kingdom

Michèle Belot

University of Edinburgh ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9JY
United Kingdom

Anikó Bíró

University of Edinburgh

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9JY
United Kingdom

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