Commitments (see also precommitment) are often used as a tool to counteract people’s lack of willpower and to achieve behavior change, such as in the areas of dieting or saving. The greater the cost of breaking a commitment, the more effective it is (Dolan et al., 2010). From the perspective of social psychology, individuals are motivated to maintain a consistent and positive self-image (Cialdini, 2008), and they are likely to keep commitments to avoid reputational damage (if done publicly) and/or cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957). A field experiment in a hotel, for example, found 25% greater towel reuse among guests who made a commitment to reuse towels at check-in and wore a “Friend of the Earth” lapel pin to signal their commitment during their stay (Baca-Motes et al., 2012). The behavior change technique of ‘goal setting’ is related to making commitments (Strecher et al., 1995), while reciprocity involves an implicit commitment.


Baca-Motes, K., Brown, A., Gneezy, A., Keenan, E. A., & Nelson, L. D. (2012). Commitment and behavior change: Evidence from the field. Journal of Consumer Research, 39(5), 1070-1084.

Cialdini, R.B. (2008). Influence: Science and Practice, 5th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Dolan, P., Hallsworth, M., Halpern, D., King, D., & Vlaev, I. (2010). MINDSPACE: Influencing behaviour through public policy. London, UK: Cabinet Office.

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Strecher, V. J., Seijts, G. H., Kok, G. J., Latham, G. P., Glasgow, R., DeVellis, B., Meertens, R. M., & Bulger, D. W. (1995). Goal setting as a strategy for health behavior change. Health Education Quarterly, 22, 190-200.