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Device turns users into Pavlov’s dogs

The latest wearable to garner pre-launch buzz is a little different to what we’re used to. In addition to recording and storing human data, the Pavlok actually aims to change user behaviour. Described as a “habit forming device” by creator Maneesh Sethi (and a “goofing off cattle prod” by journalist Simon Sharwood), the Pavlok will administer a mild electric shock to the wearer if they get lazy. Say goodbye to checking Facebook at the office and giving yourself an easy time at the gym.

Named after Ivan Pavlov and his famous conditioning experiment, Pavlok is “the first bracelet designed to actually change your habits, and not just measure what you already do.” The user is in full control of the areas of their life that Pavlok monitors; if you find that you are constantly hitting the snooze button on your morning alarm, or opening extra tabs at work and getting distracted, then you can set Pavlok to nip this in the bud.

In addition to emitting electric shocks, the bracelet will also subject users to financial penalties if they fail to stick to their objectives. But it’s not all about punishment – Pavlok offers rewards as incentives for when users fulfil their fitness goals or meet a deadline at work.

“The negative gets you started and the positive keeps the habit going,” says Sethi. “As you start to succeed, you can take away the negative reinforcement and give positive reinforcement.” Sethi was experimenting with negative reinforcement and behavioural conditioning long before he created Pavlok; in 2012 he famously hired a woman to slap him in the face every time he started to procrastinate at work, after realising that he wasted around 30 hours each week.

That unorthodox approach to boosting productivity cost Sethi $8 per hour; when the Pavlok bracelet hits the market later this year, it will carry a slightly higher price tag of around $250.

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