Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Try Temptation Bundling to Make The Tough Choices

We have all faced certain choices in which we know the right thing to do, but we don't choose the best path.   We should eat the lower calorie item on the menu, yet we opt for the delicious pasta dish.  We should work out daily, but we skip the gym and grab a beer after work with some friends.  We should save for retirement, but we opt to splurge on a vacation instead.  We should work on that term paper due next week, but we head to the party at our friend's apartment instead.   How can we improve our ability to make these tough decisions?  Wharton Professor Katherine Milkman has conducted some fascinating research on this issue.   She describes a self-control technique called temptation bundling.   In short, you bundle together a "want" and a "should" so as to make better overall choices.  This excerpt from a profile of Milkman by Princeton's alumni newsletter explains her findings:  

In 2014, Milkman published a study of a self-control strategy she calls “temptation bundling.” The idea is to link a want (in the study, listening to audio versions of page-turners such as the Hunger Games books) with a popular should (working out at the campus fitness center). If getting on a treadmill were the only way to hear the next chapter in the novel, would you be more likely to get off the couch and go to the gym?   The results were promising: Participants who had access to the audiobooks only at the gym made 51 percent more gym visits than those in the control group. (Another cohort that was encouraged, but not required, to restrict their listening to workout times had 29 percent more visits than the control group.)

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