Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How to Encourage Persistence

Wharton Professor Rom Y. Schrift and Georgia State Professor Jeffrey R. Parker have written a new paper titled, "Staying the Course: The Option of Doing Nothing and Its Impact on on Postchoice Persistence."   They discovered that people are more likely to persist in pursuit of their objectives if they originally had an option of doing nothing.  In other words, imagine that someone had the option of choosing a membership at Gym A or Gym B.   Now imagine that they were explicitly presented the option of not joining any gym at all.   In the case where this third option of doing nothing is explicitly presented to them, people are more likely to stick to their original goals.  Parker explains, "The intuition is we don’t want to give them the option.  ‘Not doing whatever’ may sound like giving up. But what people decide for themselves is, ‘I didn’t have to do it and I decided to do it, so I’ll stick with it for a longer period of time.'"  The authors explain their conclusions in the paper:

“Sticking to a diet, completing drug regimens, regularly visiting the gym and working through personal or professional challenges are all instances in which persisting is beneficial and important,” the authors write. “Using the right incentive structures, one can drastically reduce or eliminate the tendency of opting out, while maintaining the positive impact that affording no-choice options has on persistence.”

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