A Scale That Doesn’t Tell You Your Weight? A Fuqua Prof on Why It Makes a Ton of Sense:

by on February 7th, 2018

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step on a scale and not be told your weight? Probably not, but according to Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, that might be exactly what you need.

That’s why Ariely has invented a different kind of scale that never reveals your weight, called the Shapa. This one-of-a-kind scale focuses on telling you if you’ve made progress or not toward your weight goals, taking into account your regular weight fluctuations to keep your attitude positive. In an interview with Newsweek, Ariely explained the reasoning behind the Shapa and how he thinks it’s better for the average person.

First, Ariely talks about how not revealing your weight is a better form of measurement. He explains that the problem with most scales is that they don’t take into account your weight fluctuations. “We got some new data showing that people who are obese, their weight can fluctuate up to 10 pounds a day,” he said. “Part of the fluctuation depends on when you went to the bathroom and how much salt you had yesterday and so on. Part of it is that the body reacts slowly to changes. Let’s say you try to reduce your weight. Your body actually tries to fight you for a while. If you’re obese and you’re trying to lose weight, you get this reaction against it.”

That’s why the Shapa doesn’t tell you what you weigh. When you fluctuate so much, hearing that you’ve gained weight can make you feel miserable and harm your desire to keep trying to lose weight. On the other hand, if you receive a more generic response that reports back your progress on a five-point scale, you’ll be less likely to lose your motivation.

As for how Ariely came up with his idea, he took everything he knew about social science—“basically little tricks that help people be healthier,” he says—and put it into the scale. “So when you open the app you get a recommendation for missions,” Ariely explained. “Many of the missions are things like reorganize how your refrigerator looks, or let’s create a shopping list.” Shapa uses smart algorithms based on behavioral science to help you change your behavior to get healthier.

To learn more about Dan Ariely’s research as well as the classes he teaches at Fuqua, such as “Special Topics in Economic Theory,” check out his page.

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