How Companies Learn Your Secrets
February 16, 2012
linked to your Guest ID is demographic information like your age, whether you are married and have kids, which part of town you live in, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you’ve moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit.
Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own.
behavioral research. It’s amazing how much we can figure out about how people think now
the science of habit formation has become a major field of research in neurology and psychology departments at hundreds of major medical centers and universities, as well as inside extremely well financed corporate labs.
One study from Duke University estimated that habits, rather than conscious decision-making, shape 45 percent of the choices we make every day, and recent discoveries have begun to change everything from the way we think about dieting to how doctors conceive treatments for anxiety, depression and addictions.
[Researchers] can explain why some of us automatically go for a jog every morning and are more productive at work, while others oversleep and procrastinate.
within their brains, something unexpected occurred: as each rat learned how to complete the maze more quickly, its mental activity decreased.
As the path became more and more automatic — as it became a habit — the rats started thinking less and less.
This process, in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine, is called “chunking.”
the brain will try to make almost any repeated behavior into a habit, because habits allow our minds to conserve effort.
But conserving mental energy is tricky, because if our brains power down at the wrong moment, we might fail to notice something important, like a child riding her bike down the sidewalk or a speeding car coming down the street. So we’ve devised a clever system to determine when to let a habit take over. It’s something that happens whenever a chunk of behavior starts or ends — and it helps to explain why habits are so difficult to change once they’re formed, despite our best intentions.
“Then one day, we’ll put the reward in the old place and put in the rat and, by golly, the old habit will re-emerge right away. Habits never really disappear.”
it’s essential that you choose a simple cue (like always putting on your sneakers before breakfast or leaving your running clothes next to your bed) and a clear reward (like a midday treat or even the sense of accomplishment that comes from ritually recording your miles in a log book).
I needed to piggyback on an existing habit.