Follow-up to:  Fighting Akrasia:  Finding the Source

In the last post in this series I posted a link to a Google Docs survey to try to gather some data on what techniques, if any, work for people in conquering akrasia, but we haven't gotten very much information so far:  the response pool is fairly homogeneous in terms of age, sex, and personality type.  In part this is because we need to get more responses outside of the LW readership, but probably also because I'm not asking the right questions.  So, my challenge this weekend is to come up with some good revisions for the survey.

In order to maximize comment usefulness, please suggest one revision per top level comment and then any discussion of that revision can take place in the replies.

In the interest of keeping the comments on topic, I request a moratorium on discussions of whether or not akrasia exists and whether or not we can or should do something about it in the comments on this article.  It's not that I want to exclude or silence opinions contrary to what I'm trying to accomplish:  it's just that I would like to keep this article on the topic of revising the akrasia fighting survey.  By all means, if my posting about akrasia really bothers you, write up an article explaining why I'm wrong and we'll discuss the issue more there.


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I'm not asking the right questions.

Your previous survey only really included two kinds of interventions: changes to future consequences, and procedural changes. (You left out any type of cognitive intervention.)

Note that procedural changes can be immediately subject to "meta" akrasia, and a bad choice of consequence-changes can often increase akrasia in the short run, and in the long run are also subject to "meta" akrasia. (IOW, even if you invent an anti-akrasia pill, you still have to get yourself to take it -- which may not be as easy as it sounds.)

This doesn't mean that neither kind can work for some people some of the time, it's just that neither category will ever supply a long-term fix for everybody, all the time, even after you control for demographics and psychographics to constrain your definition of "everybody".

I didn't feel comfortable filling out the survey because I hadn't tried out most of the techniques.

I think CronoDAS mentioned something about how he would be a lot more motivated to try techniques if he knew it was in the name of SCIENCE. Perhaps we could organize something like that? I don't know if it would be better if we all tried one technique at once or were randomly assigned techniques using an automated system that would gradually learn what the the best techniques were and assign them more often.

I'd suggest asking questions not just about what akrasia fighting methods they tried and the outcome, but about the how and why of those methods. For instance (I think these can fit into one toplevel comment, they're all on the same subject):

For every treatment type marked as 'tried', you can ask if they still use it, why they stopped (akrasia, superseded by better method, etc), how long they used it, how many times they tried it again after quitting, how long the intervals of quitting were...

What motivated each time they tried a method (first time or not) - vital task they had to accomplish, fighting akrasia in general, social pressure...

What motivated the choice of method on each try (anecdote told by a personal acquaitance, literature, akrasia help groups, retrying something that worked last time but they quit doing anyway...)