Goal Setting Reduces Switching to More Effective Means of Goal Pursuit
With Liz Friedman and Ravi Dhar , invited for revision at JCR
People often set goals to help themselves do better in their personal and professional lives, by motivating them to concentrate their efforts toward desired outcomes and avoid temptations and distractions. Indeed, research shows that setting a goal leads people to direct effort towards goal-relevant actions at the expense of nonrelevant actions, usually leading to better performance. However, we show that setting a goal and making progress towards it can cause people to also forego alternative goal-relevant actions, even ones that can promote the goal more effectively. Consequently, setting a goal may undermine progress towards that goal. For instance, people are less likely to stop working on a lower-paying task and switch to working on a higher-paying task if they set a goal to earn a certain amount of money. As a result, setting a goal to earn money led people to earn less money. This occurs because setting a goal and making progress towards it can lead people to perceive alternative actions as less instrumental for pursuing that goal.
How Quarantine Affects Feelings of Elapsed Time
With Minju Han and Gal Zauberman, JACR, 2023
The first wave of lockdowns imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly upended people’s lives and daily structure. In this natural preregistered experiment (N=1505) conducted in June 2020, we test how the subjective temporal distance from an event - or feelings of elapsed time - depends on the share of the time interval following the event that was spent in quarantine, and by the collapse of daily temporal structure during quarantine. We find that spending a greater share of the time interval following an event in quarantine makes the event feel closer while people are still in quarantine; however, this effect reverses for those who are no longer in quarantine, such that a greater share of time spent in quarantine makes the event feel more distant.
With Mohin Banker, Dafna Goor, Moses Miller, and Tamar Makov, PNAS, 2022
Public health guidelines are more effective if people are motivated to follow them. To increase this motivation, authorities often use nudges. Testing the behavioral effects of different nudges, we found that those highlighting the personal or public benefits from following a public health guideline increased compliance. However, a nudge highlighting the medical authority behind the guideline did not increase compliance, and at times even decreased it. Although public health communications regularly use authoritative messages, these findings suggest that sometimes reminding people why they are asked to do something is better than telling them who asks them to do it.
Efficiency Neglect Leads to Economic Pessimism
With Jason Dana and George Newman, invited for revision at JEP:G
Immigration and population growth are generally associated with improving economic conditions, but most people believe the opposite. This influences political attitudes and is frequently used to promote ideas such as closed borders and population control. We show that the discrepancy occurs because when people think about the economic effects of population growth and immigration, they focus on increased demand while neglecting to consider the technological and production efficiencies that rise alongside, and often in response to, increased demand. In other words, people tend to think about each other as consumers rather than as innovators and producers. Consistent with this explanation, economic pessimism and anti-immigration sentiment are reduced when people are reminded of their own beliefs about increases in production efficiencies, but not affected by reminders about their beliefs about increases in demand.