Device put to the test: Can you break your bad habits with a jolt of electricity?

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AKRON, Ohio — Can you “shock” away bad habits?!

A wristband called the Pavlok is selling out online, and claims it can help users change their lives by changing their habits.

The wearable, watch-like device claims to help everything from sleep issues to smoking, overeating and even nail biting, by releasing an electric shock.

An employee and good friend at FOX 8, Andrea Bocaneala, tested the device to help her stop biting her nails.

“It took some getting used to,” said Bocaneala. “Not that it’s painful; it’s just a jolt, you know?”

It might sound macabre, but is actually based on an age-old principle called the Law of Effect, says Cathy Faye, assistant director at the National Museum of Psychology at the University of Akron.

“In 1898, a psychologist named Edward Thorndike basically said, when a behavior is followed by a positive consequence you’re gonna do it more, and when a behavior is followed by a negative consequence you’re gonna do it less,” said Faye.

The Pavlok is just one of many apps and wearable technology devices that are designed to help people modify their behavior.

“What it’s doing is drawing attention to your behavior patterns, which alone is often enough to help you change your behavior,” said Faye.

The Pavlok is programmable and linked to an app that helps users track their habits.

The user can choose to have only beeps and vibrations alert them, or select the micro-currents which can also be programmed between 150 and 450 volts.

Users can also decide whether or not to zap themselves when they notice the behavior, or have the app zap them.

“It did not like 100 percent,” said Bocaneala. “Ten percent was enough for me to deter the nail biting; it reminds you to stop.”

The Pavlok costs about $200 and is not recommended for children under the age of 18. People with medical conditions are also encouraged to see a doctor before using the device.

Thousands claim it has helped them quit bad habits, but not everyone.

Back at the museum, Cathy Faye said the devices will only be effective if the user truly wants to change.

“The history of psychology tells us that behavior is very changeable,” said Faye. “There’s a lot of possibility, a lot of change to be made if we put the energy into it.”

More on how Pavlok works.

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