Pavlok is a wearable that aims to help you break bad habits. For instance, if you want to stop biting your nails, the Pavlok would help you with that. The next time that you find yourself nailbiting, you just press the lightning bolt on the Pavlok to give yourself an electric shock.
The logic behind this is that the electric shock would take away the pleasant feeling you get from your bad habit. Pavlok claims that it is effective against the commonly seen bad habits such as snacking, oversleeping, nailbiting, nose picking, and even thinking bad thoughts, among others.
Aside from zapping you, Pavlok can also vibrate and beep.
Pavlok is meant to be worn on your wrist, so it comes with a wristband. Just pop the Pavlok in at the slot under the band, and wear it like you would a watch or a fitness tracker. From the outside, it looks a lot like a fitness band, except for the lightning icon at the top.
Pavlok comes in five colors: black, gray, red, blue, and pink.
The Pavlok will be able to track how much movement you make in your sleep, as well as your sleeping position. This will help the device sense just how restful your sleep is.
Pavlok also works as an alarm clock. You can set it to beep, vibrate, or, you guessed it, shock you. If you are one of those people that just hit the snooze button on your alarm and end up getting late for school or work, Pavlok will make sure that you are up and about. In fact, for some people, the feeling of getting shocked while sleeping is so unpleasant that they wake up before the alarm goes off to avoid getting zapped.
The companion app is where you customize everything about your Pavlok device, including the level of shock you receive. With the app, you can set the device to learn the movements associated with your bad habit, and it warns you if it thinks that you are about to do it. You can also use the app to track your bad habit and show you a history of when you do it. You can also set up reminders, such as having the app tell you to go to bed on time, among others.
Other notable features of the app include:
- Bad habit journal. The app will keep track of your bad habits with the journal. You can keep track of the number of times you wanted to do your bad habit and how many times you actually did it for the day. The app will also save any notes you write about your habit.
- Courses. The mobile app also comes with a course that would teach you how to break the most common bad habits there are.
- Shock reminders. The Pavlok app has a feature that will make the device vibrate when your hands get close to your mouth. For instance, if you want to quit smoking, the Pavlok will vibrate every time you take a drag out of your cigarette. This works to change your bad habit in two ways. The vibration is your prompt to shock yourself. The less you smoke, the less the need for the shocks. This will also help you become more aware of your bad habit. This is a great feature for those who might unconsciously bite their fingernails or pull out their hair.
- Pavlok Unlocked. This feature will give your family and friends the ability to zap you. This is a good way to ensure that you become more mindful of your bad habit. This also works with just beeping or vibrating.
Another feature that you would like is the Pavlok’s integration with IFTTT recipes.
This means that it can work with other IFTTT integrated devices. For instance, you can use IFTTT recipes that will zap you if your Jawbone Up says that you did not reach your daily step goal. Or if you are trying to curb eating, you can use IFTTT recipes to get an electrical shock when you (or even somebody) open your smart refrigerator during late nights. You can also make your Pavlok work with your e-mail and calendar, such as getting reminders on your Pavlok when it is time to stand up from your desk.
It also works with other services and allows you to enjoy things that are not related to behavior modification. For instance, you can get alerts when your phone’s battery runs low or zaps you when your boss sends you an e-mail.
What you might not like about the Pavlok
The electric shock you get from the Pavlok is quite unpleasant. That may be the point of the device, but it still is not a good feeling. The shock can feel anywhere like an insect bite, to something that is painful. One tech reviewer tried the Pavlok and asked his Twitter followers to shock him remotely. What followed was a deluge of unending shocks that lasted for 20 minutes before the battery ran out.
Granted that is an extreme case, the Pavlok did leave his skin red and sore even the day after.
The mobile app is a great way to keep track of your bad habit and see your progress in trying to stop it. It also makes good use of gamification, wherein you get pitted against other Pavlok users. However, it is only available for iOS and Android users. What’s more, the Android app might have problems with bugs. iOS users might have a better time with the app.
The vibrating reminders are quite helpful, but you can only use it on one hand. With the mobile app, you can set the Pavlok to vibrate when your right or left-hand goes near your face, but not both. This means that if you are a nail biter, and you set the device to vibrate every time you raise your left hand, you would probably just end up biting the fingernails on your right hand.
This brings us to a major issue with the product. The Pavlok will not be able to determine if you are biting your fingernails, or doing something else, like say, drinking water. It will just vibrate every time you move your hand closer to your face, which can be distracting to some and annoying to most.
Lastly, Pavlok needs you to be committed for it to work. The discipline and the willpower needed to shock yourself every time you pick your nose, for example, is also what will eventually stop you from shocking yourself. In fact, one could argue that if you had the willpower and the self-control to shock yourself when you do your bad habit, it is probably what made you quit it in the first place, not the Pavlok.
Does it work?
If you are spending $180 for a device that aims to change your habits by introducing some level of unpleasantness into your daily life, then your first question would be whether it works or not.
First, the site itself features a lot of testimonials from customers. However, they have put in a disclaimer that these testimonials are unverified and that the results of these testimonials may not be the results you see. They also said that “average results” would be lower than the “best case” results that are featured on the site. Pavlok also disavows any negative effects of using the product, including the potential increase in the habit you are trying to break.
An e-mail from their sales support team also indicated that they had no medical or scientific studies to back up their claims or to test the safety of their products. Only to say that the “idea was based upon many years of psychological studies in behavior aversion.”
Pavlok: Final recommendations
Despite being named after Ivan Pavlov, the Pavlok actually works with operant conditioning, which was put forward by BF Skinner. If you really need help trying to break a bad habit, the Pavlok might be worth giving a try.
The thing with Pavlok is that it has cornered the market of people looking for a way to break their bad habits. You would probably not find similar products.
The device works on a simple premise: if you do not want to zap yourself, then don’t do the habit you’re trying to break. The thing is, it does rely too much on the user. It does not detect when you are actually biting your nails or not, so you need to manually zap yourself.
Thinking about it, you could easily save $180 if you just pinch yourself hard every time you bite your nails. If it did not cost too much, there would have been no problem recommending this product. And if it did not work for you, you have six months to return the device and get your money back.
Furthermore, your results would vary on how committed you are. There will be people who would not zap themselves every time they do their bad habit. And there are people who would completely ignore the Pavlok.
Also, note that the company behind Pavlok does not really claim that the device could cure any addiction. This is because Pavlok works on changing your brain’s association towards a certain habit, from being rewarded to feeling something unpleasant. It does not go beyond that and would prove ineffective against getting rid of an addiction.