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http://ssrn.com/abstract=2204126
 
 

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The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior


Hengchen Dai


University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Katherine L. Milkman


University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Jason Riis


Harvard Business School

December 24, 2013

The Wharton School Research Paper No. 51

Abstract:     
The popularity of New Year’s resolutions suggests that people are more likely to tackle their goals immediately following salient temporal landmarks. If true, this little-researched phenomenon has the potential to help people overcome important willpower problems that often limit goal attainment. Across three archival field studies, we provide evidence of a “fresh start effect.” We show that Google searches for the term “diet” (Study 1), gym visits (Study 2), and commitments to pursue goals (Study 3) all increase following temporal landmarks (e.g., the outset of a new week, month, year, or semester; a birthday; a holiday). We propose that these landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviors.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 21

Keywords: goals, motivation, temporal landmarks, mental accounting

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Date posted: January 21, 2013 ; Last revised: August 1, 2014

Suggested Citation

Dai, Hengchen and Milkman, Katherine L. and Riis, Jason, The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior (December 24, 2013). The Wharton School Research Paper No. 51. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2204126 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2204126

Contact Information

Hengchen Dai (Contact Author)
University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )
3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

Katherine L. Milkman
University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Jason Riis
Harvard Business School ( email )
Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States
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