In an age where more than 2 in 3 adults are considered to be overweight or obese, and the number of overweight children is rising, with a shocking one in three American kids and teens considered to be overweight or obese, the fight against overeating has become ever more important. But with the festive season soon approaching, bringing with it delicious party food, copious amounts of alcohol and of course, that gut busting Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, cutting back on what we eat now is going to be difficult.
One American company however, thinks they have the answer in the form of an electric shock wrist band they’ve called the Pavlok. The Pavlok is designed to try and instil good habits and punish our bad eating habits by administering a small electric shock, which is activated via an app.
The wrist band is worn much like a fitness bracelet, in that it monitors your daily habits, but the Pavlok is different as it uses advanced software to help you change your habits. Therefore, Pavlok can be used not only for helping with overeating, but to change any unwanted behaviour that has become a habit.
So, for instance, if you wanted to stop spending so much time on social media sites, you could use the Pavlok to give you a shock to get you to stop. Or if you wanted to get up an hour earlier in the morning, you could get the Pavlok to give you a shock to wake you at an appropriate time.
The Pavlok was inspired by the famous classical conditioning experiment by Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov noticed that his dogs would automatically start salivating whenever they saw his laboratory assistant arrive with their food. Pavlov knew that salivating was a reflex that was hard wired into the dogs and not a learned response, but he discovered that his dogs could learn to associate any object or event with food, such as the lab assistant. When they saw the assistant without the food they would still salivate.
Pavlov experimented by using bell whenever he gave food to his dogs. After repeating this procedure he tried ringing the bell without the food and the dogs would salivate, expecting the food. So the dogs had learned (or been conditioned) an association between the bell and the food and produced a new behaviour. The crucial point of Pavlov’s experiment was that for the association to be made, the two stimuli had to be presented together and very quickly.
This is the same with the Pavlok wrist band. The creator of the wrist band – Maneesh Sethi, said:
“The idea is everybody has these things they know they shouldn’t do. If you start to add a small amount of shock when you do stupid things, you can mostly just increase the awareness of your activity in your daily routine. I like to say that for the last 1,000 years, we’ve tamed environment, but we haven’t tamed ourselves.”
How The Pavlok works
Mr Sethi explains how the Pavlok works on his website:
“Pavlok’s shocking capability has been tested on hundreds of real people, including my friends and myself. It uses a very safe amount of current — the same or less than hundreds of devices currently on the market. The shock is not designed to be excruciating — it is a mild jolt that captures your attention and helps build in a reinforcement response.”
The shock delivers at two milliamperes, which the manufacturers claim is not excessively painful or dangerous.
The Pavlok was successfully funded on the crowd funding site Indiegogo and will go on sale can priced at $244 (£155).