Humans need a continuous and consistent self-image (Cialdini, 2008).  In an effort to align future behavior, being consistent is best achieved by making a commitment. Thus, precommitting to a goal is one of the most frequently applied behavioral devices to achieve positive change. Committing to a specific future action (e.g. staying healthy by going to the gym) at a particular time (e.g. at 7am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) tends to better motivate action while also reducing procrastination (Sunstein, 2014).

The ‘Save More Tomorrow’ program (Thaler & Benartzi, 2004), aimed at helping employees save more money, illustrates precommitment alongside other ideas from behavioral economics. The program gives employees the option of precommitting to a gradual increase in their savings rate in the future, each time they get a raise.  The program also avoids the perception of loss that would be felt with a reduction in disposable income, because consumers commit to saving future increases in income. People’s inertia makes it more likely that they stick with the program, because they have to opt out to leave.

 

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

Sunstein, C. R. (2014). Nudging: A very short guide. Journal of Consumer Policy, 37(4), 583-588.

Thaler, R. H., & Benartzi, S. (2004). Save More Tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving. Journal of Political Economy, 112, S164-S187.