As usual, my thoughts come from this presentation by Stanford University’s Persuasive Tech Lab.
I’m running late this week. It’s been a killer, that’s for sure.
The myth here is that information leads us to make choices and therefore understanding will help us conquer our addictions. I’ll admit that this is a very seductive, attractive myth. We hear all the time that knowledge is power (and it is), and it seems logical to us that knowledge should then influence our behavior. And it does, but only so far as we ourselves are actually committed to that knowledge.
Let me make a point about information and behavior: Smoking. Literally everyone knows that smoking is bad for our health. The body of scientific evidence against smoking is nigh unto completely overwhelming. You cannot argue in favor of smoking. And yet millions of people smoke. They know it’s bad and many of them even wish they could quit. Information doesn’t seem to be changing their behavior all that much, does it?
The subtext on this slide points out that humans aren’t really rational. That’s true. We’re far more emotional in our responses and actions, and our behaviors follow suit.
I keep going back to President Packer’s famous quote: A study of the gospel will change behavior faster than a study of behavior will change behavior. This points directly to the emotional, spiritual side of our humanity. Yesterday during our High Council meeting, the Stake President reminded me of something that Elder Bednar said about President Packer’s quote. The gist of the comment was that it’s not just any general study of the gospel that changes behavior but studying the gospel principles directly related to the behavior you desire to change.
In short, if you have a Smoking problem, studying the Word of Wisdom and other scriptural references to health will change your behavior faster than studying a book on quitting smoking. Why? Because the gospel changes your core, your beliefs, and the emotional center upon which you are based. Studying the gospel will indeed change your behavior faster than studying behavior will change your behavior because the gospel influences more than just knowledge. More than just behavior. More than even just emotion and spirit.
Like I said at the beginning, when we are committed to knowledge, knowledge can influence our behavior. But that commitment requires so much more than simple head knowledge. It’s heart knowledge. Emotional. Spiritual. Closer to the core and center of who we are. When we reach that point, our decisions are not based so much on knowledge anymore but rather on character.