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Days of the week affect behavior

Days of the week affect behavior

The feel of Sunday evening and the blues of Monday are well known, but research by Dutch behavioral biologist Jet Sanders shows that days of the week influence human behavior more than is often assumed. “This insight could influence the outcome of the election.”

Paul Notelteirs

Research ideas sometimes come to scientists at unexpected moments, and according to Jett Sanders of the London School of Economics and Political Science, they can arise in seemingly ordinary situations. During one evening in the pub, one of her colleagues was confused as to what day it was. Where they were able to easily distinguish between the beginning and end of the work week, it turned out to be more difficult on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The debate sparked a series of scientific studies on the impact of the weekly schedule on human choices and behaviour. The effects turned out to be surprisingly large, and this is not unimportant: while the seasonal cycles and the diurnal rhythm are wholly and partly determined by nature, respectively, the decision to divide life into seven-day “cubes” is wholly arbitrary. This means that the responsibility for it rests entirely with society and this is where the shoe is pinched: few seem to be aware of the consequences of this seven-day cycle.

Sanders’ research is primarily about the degree to which people are willing to take risks on different days. This degree of indifference is at the root of many decisions. A Dutch behavioral biologist asked participants to inflate a virtual balloon on different days. Bigger balloon earn more money, but at the same time, more chance of balloon popping and they won’t win anything. On Monday, the participants appeared to be the most willing to take that risk. Then they became more and more cautious, until risk aversion abruptly subsided on Friday.

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This may sound abstract, but Sanders shows that the pattern is constantly repeating itself in society. I examined the voting intentions of 80,000 Scots ahead of the independence referendum in 2014. The vote took place on Thursday, but that is precisely the day when people are least willing to take the risk. “There were 4 per cent more votes against independence than on Monday. If the referendum had been held at the start of the week, Scotland would have been independent,” Sanders said. “So the days of the week affect the outcome of the election.”

crime rates

The weekly development of risk management also has surprising implications for other aspects of public life. For example, in one of her studies, Sanders focused on crime rates in the United States. It turns out that there is three times less chance of a reckless bank robbery on Wednesday than on Friday. In the middle of the week, the number of firearm accidents was also 30 percent lower than it was before the weekend. This insight can be useful for police services, but it also benefits ordinary citizens. “The day of the week can determine the outcome of the decision,” Sanders says. So the idea that people work the same way for seven days turns out to be incorrect. Therefore, in order to make a rational decision on an important issue, it is recommended to complete the weekly course once. This reduces the chance that time factors will lead to an overly cautious or impulsive decision.

Behavioral biologist Jet Sanders.HUMO . picture

The exact explanation for the evolution of risk-taking behavior continues, but Sanders’ hypothesis is that fluctuating energy levels may be part of the explanation. At the beginning of the week, people are still very active and often make decisions by taking into account various environmental factors. During the week, that energy recedes more and more, until Friday’s weekend sighting provides a boost again. Remarkably, many emotional decisions are made at the end of the week. Then people hurriedly decide to do something they hadn’t dared before. It also explains why people on average drive faster on Fridays and why people drink or smoke more,” says Sanders. She makes sure that Friday, like Monday, is a good time to ask for a raise, but it’s not the most interesting time to have surgery. major.

Of course, the interpretation of the weekly cycle is culturally determined, but according to Sanders it also occurs when another two days are designated as a weekend. If there’s an extended weekend, the pattern simply shifts one day. “If there was a four-day work week, I think it would,” Sanders says.

The behavioral biologist’s ambition is on the one hand to make people aware of the impact that weekdays have on their behaviour, but she also wants to provide advice to policy makers. This concerns not only advice about the best time to organize elections or when additional police forces may be needed, but also about when to communicate certain options. “Because time has a greater impact on our behavior than we think.”