Humans really rely on feedback loops to reinforce behaviors. A feedback loop is a type of behavioral feedback that either results in repetition or avoidance of a behavior. A positive feedback loop is one in which the end product of the behavior causes more of that behavior to occur.

Feedback that results in a positive feedback loop is oftentimes in the form of praise. For example, you have cut out sugar from your diet and as a result, you’ve lost a few unwanted pounds. Your co-workers notice that you look healthy and you receive several complements. The feedback you received (the compliments) will most likely result with you keeping up the no sugar diet (more of the behavior occurs). Alternatively, a negative feedback loop is one where the feedback you receive from a behavior results in less occurrence or avoidance of that behavior. An example of a negative feedback loop would be you touch a hot stove, which results in pain as the feedback from the action. You are very likely to avoid the behavior in the future because of the feedback you received last time.

Behavioral feedback loops are responsible for many of the decisions we make every day. Put simply, when the results of an action yields positivity, we tend to perform the action again. If the results we get back are negative, it becomes much less likely we will do it again. This is why both positive and negative feedback loops can be used in trying to stick with a good habit. Let’s start by using saving money as an example of the good habit we wish to stick with. Saving money, not overspending it, will yield several positive results.

Becoming more financially comfortable, being able to send your kids to college, the ability to get a better home loan to name a few. Feeling the effects of the positive results will help ensure that you keep up the behavior of saving money. Negative feedback loops also work to keep good habits at use. Maybe the habit you want to stick with is quitting smoking. The negative feedback or consequences that you receive as a result of smoking a cigarette will help you continue to avoid the act of smoking. We use behavioral feedback loops every day to help govern our decisions. The trick is to make feedback loops work for you to help you stick with your good habits in the long run.

 

Burnout recovery specialist, intuitive, and physician Dr. Veronica Anderson teaches high-performing professional women how to make successful career, health, and life transformations by overcoming challenges and developing resilience. She is the author of three bestselling books and splits her time between Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Harlem, New York City, with her husband and two dogs, Artemis and Apollo.

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