Shahram Heshmat, PhD
Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Public Health, University of Illinois at Springfield
AAOHN 1.08 | AAFP 1.0 | ACSM 1.0 | CDR 1.0 | NCHEC 1.0
A fundamental research question in behavior change research is why is it that people who are able to successfully initiate changes in their behavior are more often than not unable to sustain those changes over time? For example, why do people fail to stick to their goal for eating healthy diet in order to maintain weight loss? What leads a person to temporarily prefer poorer alternative? How can we explain such behavior that goes against our own self-interest?
This session considers 10 motivational factors that influence our vulnerability for impulsive behavior. These motives contribute to impulsive behavior by either undermining the self-control strength or a greater tendency to desire and to seek out opportunities for immediate reward. These factors together explain why there is conflict between long-term human intentions and short-term actions, which leads to myopic decisions. An understanding of the circumstances under which people fail at self-control can provide valuable insights into how to overcome self-control problems.
Dr. Heshmat received a PhD in Managerial Economics in 1984 from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), with a specialty in Health Economics. Managerial Economics is an interdisciplinary field (economic theory, financial management and quantitative methods). He is now an associate professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS), and an adjunct professor at the Public Health Department, teaching Addiction.
He specializes in the behavioral economics of Addiction & Self Control. Behavioral economics blends insights of psychology and economics to provide a realistic view of human behavior. Behavioral economics presents a valuable organizing principle to understand when and how people make errors, and how people’s decision making can be improved. Addiction is a fascinating example of human behavior. Behavioral economics has a unique approach to address addictive behavior. For instance, many decision biases frequently precede drug abuse/obesity. The escalation of addiction, in turn, worsens decision biases. The policy implication is to help people change their behavior in ways that align with their own long-term interests and stated wishes.
His recent books include Eating Behavior and Obesity: Behavioral Economics Strategies for Health Professionals. New York, NY: Springer (2011); Addiction: A Behavioral Economics Perspective to be published the Routledge/Psychology Press (2015). These books illustrate the applications of behavioral economic perspective to Addiction, Overeating, Self-Control, and Well-Being. The purpose is to use discoveries of the brain to help individuals understand why they resist change, and how to push through the resistance. Overall, these two texts expose readers to errors of judgment, oddities of choice, and identify obstacles to sensible and socially desirable choices that serve their best interests.
He regularly writes the Addiction blog for the Psychology Today. He has found this outlet a unique opportunity for sharing his years of academic experience with a broad audience. Studying the behavioral economics of addiction, teaching, and blogging help to further his understanding of the nature of addiction. This work is an expression of his deepest values. He says that his purpose is to use behavioral economics to help people lead healthier and happier lives.