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Surprise, surprise

We are way more likely to adhere to restrictive behavior if we’re told that the reason we shouldn’t do something is that it’s likely to be a problem for us as individuals (or to our close friends and relatives) rather than if we’re told, “Hey, you shouldn’t do that because it’s bad for everyone else.”

At least, that’s the conclusion of an American survey of 250 individuals published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

In this survey, the researchers were looking at how best to address people about the overuse of antibiotics to get them to lower their use of antibiotics.

The researchers gave each of the participants a bunch of statements “focused on potential harm either to the individual, to contacts of the individual, or to society” in general.

And while all the statements “decreased patient likelihood to request antibiotics”, those “statements about harm to the individual or contacts of the individual decreased participant likelihood to request antibiotics significantly more than statements about societal harm of antibiotic misuse.”

Can’t say I’m surprised.

But this is clearly also likely to be true about trying to get people to do more recycling, or reducing carbon emissions, and on an on.

It’s simply in our genes to worry way more about the effect of something on our own genes than we worry about the effect it might have on someone else’s genes.