From when we are young, we learn that our actions have outcomes, whether good or bad. But interestingly, some adults might have a hard time seeing this connection, especially when it comes to dropping bad habits.
Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney and Western Sydney University delved into this topic.
They discovered that the struggle some people have with changing harmful behaviors might not be because they don’t want to, but rather because they can’t quite learn from their mistakes. They might come up with reasons for their problems that sound right but aren’t true.
To explore this idea, these researchers set up an experiment with a space-themed video game. Young adults played this game, aiming to collect points by clicking on two planets, hoping to win a cash prize.
However, the game had a twist. Both planets offered rewards, but choosing one could occasionally summon a pirate ship that took away a big part of their points, while the other planet was a safer choice.
Some players, the “sensitives,” quickly learned to avoid the planet that brought the pirate ship. They made the connection between their choice and the negative outcome and changed their behavior to keep their points safe.
Yet, a significant number didn’t make this connection, even after several rounds. When the researchers explained halfway through the game that one planet was a bad choice, most players started avoiding it.
However, a small group continued to click on the harmful planet even after being warned, which puzzled the researchers. This group was the main focus of the study.
The experiment shed light on why some people keep up with self-destructive behaviors.
Commonly, it’s believed that people might continue harmful actions because they value the immediate pleasure more than anything else, or they might not even realize they’re doing it.
The researchers noted that when negative outcomes don’t happen often, people might be more inclined to take risks, thinking they won’t face consequences.
This isn’t just about people with addictions or those who engage in risky behaviors; it can happen to anyone.
Self-destructive actions can take many forms, such as abusing substances, eating disorders, self-harm, risky sexual behaviors, gambling addiction, overworking, striving for unrealistic perfection, withdrawing from social interactions, or engaging in dangerous activities.
These behaviors can harm one’s health, relationships, and overall quality of life. If you notice yourself or someone else struggling with such behaviors, it’s important to seek help. They often signal deeper mental health issues that need attention.
This study, conducted by Philip Jean-Richard-dit-Bressel and his team, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, opens up new ways of understanding cognitive processes behind difficult-to-change behaviors.
It emphasizes the importance of recognizing the signs of self-destructive actions and the value of seeking help, offering a fresh perspective on mental health awareness.
If you care about health, please read studies that vegetarian diet may increase your depression risk, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.
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