Track 4: Goals & Motivation
Rima Toure-Tillery (Northwestern University)

4C. Task Framing & Incentives

Friday, March 4
2:00pm – 3:30pm EST
Discussant: Ayelet Gneezy (University of California San Diego)
MC: Caroline Roux (Concordia University)
Calendar Invite: Add to calendar
Student Coordinator: Archer Pan (Cornell University) (

Competitive Papers

Rejections Are Stickier Than Choices
Authors: Minzhe Xu (University of Florida), Yang Yang (University of Florida)
Presenting Author: Minzhe Xu (University of Florida)
Seven studies (six preregistered) document a novel and counter-normative effect of task type on variety-seeking: when making repeated decisions between the same set of options, consumers who make each decision by rejecting (vs. choosing) seek less variety. This effect occurs because the rejection task decreases the liking of the less-preferred option(s), thereby increasing the likelihood of selecting the more-preferred option(s) in future decisions. This research yields important implications for consumer welfare: the rejection task can improve (worsen) the decision quality in situations in which consumers typically seek too much (too little) variety.
Give Me a Break! Categorizing Tasks Surrounding Breaks Improves Task Performance by Reducing Rumination
Authors: Rebecca Chae (Santa Clara University), Kaitlin Woolley (Cornell University), Marissa Sharif (University of Pennsylvania)
Presenting Author: Rebecca Chae (Santa Clara University)
Consumers are encouraged to take breaks from goal-related activities to maintain motivation (e.g., at work, during exercise). We propose that how consumers construe tasks surrounding breaks can affect their motivation. In particular, we examine the effect of task categorization on break experience and subsequent post-break performance. Five experiments reveal that breaks are more restorative when people categorize (vs. do not categorize) tasks before and after the break. Categorizing tasks reduces negative affect, improves exercise evaluations, and increases work performance. This strategy is effective because it reduces rumination, as consumers are better able to detach from the goal during the break.
Save More Today or Tomorrow: The Role of Urgency in Nudging Pre-commitment
Authors: Joseph Reiff (UCLA Anderson School of Management), Hengchen Dai (UCLA Anderson School of Management), John Beshears (Harvard University), Katherine Milkman (University of Pennsylvania), Shlomo Benartzi (UCLA Anderson School of Management)
Presenting Author: Joseph Reiff (UCLA Anderson School of Management)
In a field experiment (N=5,196), we offered people a choice between enrolling in a saving plan now or pre-committing to enroll in it later. This reduced immediate enrollment by 21%, had a null effect on overall enrollment, and reduced total savings by 6%, compared to merely inviting people to enroll in the same savings plan now. Why? We theorize and show across three pre-registered lab studies (N=5,059) that offering a pre-commitment option alongside an immediate enrollment option leads people to infer that whatever behavior is on offer is less urgently recommended and reduces engagement in the behavior, especially immediately (even though the option to delay makes saying “yes” less painful).
My Never-Ending Story: How and When Incompleteness in Product Sets Signals Self-Expansion Opportunity and Produces Greater Consumer Preference
Authors: C. Clark Cao (Lingnan University), John Yi (Le Moyne College), Merrie Brucks (University of Arizona), Darren Dahl (University of British Columbia)
Presenting Author: John Yi (Le Moyne College)
Incomplete product sets (e.g., a furniture set with items missing) are often perceived negatively by consumers as imperfect or inferior. In this research, however, we show through nine studies that incompleteness in product sets can be seen as an opportunity for self-expansion, which in turn translates into heightened consumer preference. We also find that this effect is most pronounced when self–product connection or self-expansion motivation is high. Taken together, our findings provide novel insights into both consumer research and marketing practices related to completeness/incompleteness, as well as product design, positioning, and promotion.

Flash Talks

Choosing More Aggressive Commitment Contracts for Others than for the Self
Authors: Craig Brimhall (University of Utah), David Tannenbaum (University of Utah), Eric VanEpps (University of Utah)
Presenting Author: Craig Brimhall (University of Utah)
Despite evidence that commitment contracts improve self-control outcomes, they are relatively underused. Across five preregistered studies, we find that decision makers are more likely to select commitment contracts with more severe penalties (i.e., anti-charity contracts) for others than for themselves. Decision makers view commitment contracts as entailing an effectiveness-appropriateness trade-off, and this self-other difference in contract choice arises because decision makers believe anti-charity contracts will be more effective for others than for themselves. Our results suggest that people recognize the effectiveness of using aggressive commitment contracts to overcome self-control problems, but view themselves as an exception to that general rule.
When Sound Fools You to Work Less
Authors: Elina Hur (Cornell University), Sarah Lim (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Helen Chun (Cornell University)
Presenting Author: Elina Hur (Cornell University)
Companies intentionally add sound to their digital products in order to mimic physical product experience and improve user experience. These sound cues may also provide instrumental value in monitoring their progress on a task where the sound is contingent on their activity (e.g., digital keyboard typing sound, e-book flipping sound). Across three studies, we document that this instrumental cue from sound has an unintended backfiring effect. We demonstrate that as consumers find greater instrumental value of product sound, they tend to performance worse on a task, but mistakenly perceive that they performed well on their task.


How Incentives Help Us Do Hard Things First
Authors: Matt Healey (Washington University in St. Louis), Robyn LeBoeuf (Washington University in St. Louis)
Presenting Author: Matt Healey (Washington University in St. Louis)
When facing two tasks of differing difficulty, which do you choose to do first? We find that people’s preference for doing the harder task first increases when task completion is incentivized: People who stand to earn a bonus for task completion are more likely to choose to begin with the harder (vs. easier) task than are people who do not stand to earn a bonus. We further find that people perceive the difficult-first order to be more likely to lead to success, and that incentives increase the motivation to succeed and thus the preference for the difficult-first order.
The Struggle is Real: Motivating Goal Pursuit by Normalizing Difficulty
Authors: Alexander Park (Washington University in St. Louis), Rachel Gershon (University of California San Diego), Marissa Sharif (University of Pennsylvania)
Presenting Author: Alexander Park (Washington University in St. Louis)
Consumers often use goal-relevant products to help them pursue their goals. However, setbacks and struggles are inevitable in goal pursuit. Following setbacks, consumers may disengage from a goal and discontinue the use of goal-relevant products. How can marketers help struggling consumers re-engage with their goals? Across four pre-registered studies, we find that normalizing the difficulty of the goal pursuit process leads consumers to be more motivated and more likely to re-engage with goal-relevant products. We further demonstrate that motivation increases because highlighting the difficulty of the goal increases the perceived achievability of the goal.
Return to schedule