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Even when you know what you want to do, sometimes actually doing the thing is hard. Luckily, research suggests a few ways you can make it a little easier.

Hosted by: Hank Green
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This episode is sponsored by Ground News, a new website and app that lets you compare how major events are being covered. Head to, or click the link in the description, to download the free app.

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So maybe you wanna be an organ donor or exercise more, but have you done it? I've done half of those things. It can be really hard to do things that you know you want to do, because sometimes, you wanna make a change but never get around to it, and sometimes you just don't know how to get it done, and sometimes you try to do too much too fast. These are all legitimate barriers to just doing that thing already, but giving change a chance has its benefits, and psychology can give some insights into your decision-making, or not decision-making, process.

Humans are complicated. Your actions don't always align with your preferences. For example, a Gallup survey published in 1993 found that 85% of Americans like the idea of donating an organ but only 28% were registered organ donors. Sometimes, you really want to do something; it just never makes it onto the to-do list, and in many ways, this is totally understandable, but when that inertia is not in your way, more people's actions align with their preferences.

A study in 2012 published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that organ donation rates are drastically higher in countries that automatically make everyone a donor. Now, in those countries, you can still opt out of donating, just like how in the U.S. you can opt into donating. In opt-in countries, organ donation rates are 15%, while in opt-out countries, it's 90%.

The percentage of organ donors in opt-out countries aligns very well with the percentage of well-intentioned U.S. citizens, but because the burden of making that call and putting yourself on the donation list is on the individual in the U.S., our organ donation rates are low, so if you're finding it hard to make that decision that you know you wanna make, there could be a similar hurdle getting in your way.

But sometimes, it's more that you just have no idea where to start. A study conducted in 1965 by researchers at Rutgers found that people were much more likely to get a tetanus shot when they were also provided with an action plan. Participants were given one of four pamphlets that either outlined the risks of tetanus in a very frightful way, like outlining the consequences of not getting the shot to, like, instill fear in the reader, or in a less frightful way, and those pamphlets also either provided specific or non-specific recommendations for how to schedule an appointment and get the shot.

And the researchers found that, in the next four to six weeks, 27.6% of the people who had specific action items went to get a tetanus shot, while only 3.37% of those who received nonspecific recommendations followed up with a shot, and importantly, none of the people who read the scary pamphlet and got nonspecific recommendations ended up getting a tetanus shot afterward, so fear is not enough on its own to cause behavioral change. A specific action plan is sometimes what it takes to make that move.

And when making an action plan, you might be stalled by the idea that it doesn't accomplish everything you hoped for all at once. All-or-nothing thinking can shut everything down, but making incremental progress toward things you wanna get done still eventually gets you where you want to end up.

For example, a study published in the journal Health Psychology found that people who go from not exercising at all to suddenly doing high-intensity workouts were less likely to finish their workouts compared to people who started with moderate exercises. Jumping straight into high-intensity workouts is less sustainable than easing into it, because people can either burn out mentally or injure themselves physically. And in this study, easing into it refers to the intensity, but not the frequency, of exercise. If you make a habit of exercising every day and keep the intensity slow and steady, you are more likely to keep doing it, but not when you try to do too hard of a workout right away.

So even when you know exactly what you want to do, sometimes, making those easy decisions and doing the thing is hard, but research suggests that removing obstacles for yourself, making a game plan, and moving forward gradually can get you to your end goal.

And this brings us to a difficult decision. We are sad to share that, after next week's video, SciShow Psych will be going on an indefinite hiatus. Over the last 5 years, we have had the privilege of making videos on this channel exploring the wonderful and complex world of psychology and the human mind. In 2022, we are excited to spend more time making episodes over on our main channel, SciShow, where all of our future psychology content will be shared, and all the videos already on this channel will still be available here forever to watch anytime.

Thank you so much for your support of SciShow Psych over the years, and a huge thank you to today's sponsor, Ground News.  This channel is all about the human brain and the ways we interact with the world, and how we consume news is a big part of how we perceive the world around us. There is so much information available on the internet, but often an algorithm decides what you see, and this tends to sort us into ideological bubbles.

If you're interested in seeing how a single news story is being covered across the political spectrum, you might be interested in checking out Ground News. Ground News is a new website and app that shows you the bias of some media outlets and lets you compare how they're framing a major event or issue compared to other news organizations. It's a great tool for curious people who want to cut through media bias and follow the issues that matter to them most, like science or health. You can see every side of every news story by going to, or you can click the link in the description to download their free app, and thank you again for watching this episode and other episodes of SciShow Psych.

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