Response: The Power to Persuade

Carrots and Sticks by Ian Ayres

As our final project depends on the ability to change behavior, this reading provides insight into how such changes can be caused simply by the passing of time.  Ayres discusses hyperbolic discounting, the notion that people, when offered a future reward, will "manifest increasing impatience as the time before the moment of the reward shrinks."

In other words, when offered a choice between two rewards (one small reward sooner or one larger reward later), people's choices change as the time of the reward nears.  This preference reversal is the key to applying this phenomenon to change a given behavior.

Additionally, there are various types of systems designed for effecting behavioral change. Commitments, incentives, and anti-incentives can all be used for achieving the same end but their respective modi operandi suit the changing of some behaviors far better than others.

The important questions to ask when designing such a system are:
  • To what? - "the exact form of the substantive commitment"
  • To whom? - "who else should be party to the deal"
  • With what consequence? - "the consequences of failing to keep [the] commitment"

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