Featured Research and Programming

Featured Research

Copy-Paste Prompts: A New Nudge to Promote Goal Achievement

Journal of the Association for Consumer Research | July 2020

Katie S. Mehr, Amanda E. Geiser, Katherine L. Milkman, and Angela L. Duckworth

Consumers often struggle to achieve self-set, life-improvement goals. We introduce a novel, psychologically wise nudge—the copy-paste prompt—that encourages consumers to seek out and mimic a goal-achievement strategy used by an acquaintance. In a large (N=1,028), preregistered, longitudinal study, participants randomly assigned to receive a copy-paste prompt spend more time exercising the following week than participants assigned to either a quasi-yoked or simple control condition. The benefits of copy-paste prompts are mediated by the usefulness of the adopted exercise strategy, commitment to using it, effort put into finding it, and the frequency of social interaction with people who exercise regularly. These findings suggest that further research on the potential of this virtually costless nudge is warranted.

A large-scale field experiment shows giving advice improves academic outcomes for the advisor

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences | July 2019

Lauren Eskreis-Winkler, Katherine L. Milkman, Dena M. Gromet, and Angela L. Duckworth

Common sense suggests that people struggling to achieve their goals benefit from receiving motivational advice. What if the reverse is true? In a preregistered field experiment, we tested whether giving motivational advice raises academic achievement for the advisor. We randomly assigned n = 1,982 high school students to a treatment condition, in which they gave motivational advice (e.g., how to stop procrastinating) to younger students, or to a control condition. Advice givers earned higher report card grades in both math and a self-selected target class over an academic quarter. This psychologically wise advice-giving nudge, which has relevance for policy and practice, suggests a valuable approach to improving achievement: one that puts people in a position to give.

Beyond Willpower: Strategies for Reducing Failures of Self-Control

Psychological Science in the Public Interest | February 2019

Angela Duckworth, Katherine Milkman, and David Laibson

Almost everyone struggles to act in their individual and collective best interests, particularly when doing so requires forgoing a more immediately enjoyable alternative. Other than exhorting decision makers to “do the right thing,” what can policymakers do to reduce overeating, undersaving, procrastination, and other self-defeating behaviors that feel good now but generate larger delayed costs? In this review, we synthesize contemporary research on approaches to reducing failures of self-control. We distinguish between self-deployed and other-deployed strategies and, in addition, between situational and cognitive intervention targets. Collectively, the evidence from both psychological science and economics recommends psychologically informed policies for reducing failures of self-control.

Should Governments Invest More in Nudging?

Psychological Science | June 2017

Shlomo Benartzi, John Beshears, Katherine L. Milkman, Cass R. Sunstein, Richard H. Thaler, Maya Shankar, Will Tucker-Ray, William J. Congdon, and Steven Galing

Governments are increasingly adopting behavioral science techniques for changing individual behavior in pursuit of policy objectives. The types of “nudge” interventions that governments are now adopting alter people’s decisions without coercion or significant changes to economic incentives. We calculated ratios of impact to cost for nudge interventions and for traditional policy tools, such as tax incentives and other financial inducements, and we found that nudge interventions often compare favorably with traditional interventions. We conclude that nudging is a valuable approach that should be used more often in conjunction with traditional policies, but more calculations are needed to determine the relative effectiveness of nudging.

Featured Program

StepUp: A Habit Building, Science-Based Workout Program

We designed StepUp to identify what works best for creating lasting exercise habits. The program was launched in partnership with 24 Hour Fitness. Check back for updates on the insights we learn from this program.