Reinforce Good Habits With Temptation Bundling

Brilliance | Dec. 09, 2017

You probably know the feeling: you should go to the gym, but you want to binge-watch the latest series on Netflix. You should save money for that vacation next month, but you want a new pair of shoes. You should be getting work done, but you want to read this fascinating article on Curiosity. For many of us, the wants usually win out over the shoulds. But what if you could use the wants to make you accomplish the shoulds?

That's what Katherine Milkman set out to determine when she designed a study of a self-control strategy she conceived called "temptation bundling." For a 2014 study amusingly titled "Holding The Hunger Games Hostage At The Gym," she put 226 volunteers into three groups. One group—the control group—got a $25 gift card and was encouraged to visit the gym regularly over the 10-week study period. The second group was loaned four audiobooks of their choice, and encouraged to make a rule that they could only listen to the novels while exercising. The third group was just like the second, except they could only access their iPod loaded with audiobooks at the gym itself. Sure enough, the people in the third group made 51 percent more gym visits than those in the control group. (For their part, the people in the second group made 29 percent more visits to the gym—nothing to scoff at.) Those results suggest that so-called temptation bundling really does work. So next time you want to watch Netflix, make yourself watch it on the treadmill instead. Explore more ways to strengthen your willpower in the videos below.

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