Holding the Hunger Games Hostage at the Gym: an Evaluation of Temptation Bundling

32 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2012 Last revised: 31 Aug 2013

Katherine L. Milkman

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Julia A. Minson

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Kevin Volpp

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: June 6, 2013

Abstract

We introduce and evaluate the effectiveness of temptation bundling – a new, inexpensive method for simultaneously tackling two types of self-control problems by harnessing consumption complementarities.  We conducted a field experiment to measure the impact of bundling instantly-gratifying but guilt-inducing “want” experiences (in this case, page-turner audio novels), with valuable “should” behaviors providing delayed rewards (in this case, visiting the gym). We explore: (1) whether such temptation bundles increase engagement in shoulds and (2) whether people would pay to create these restrictive bundles.  Study participants were randomly assigned to a full treatment condition in which access to tempting, lowbrow audio novels was restricted to the gym, an intermediate treatment condition in which participants were encouraged to restrict their enjoyment of tempting audio novels to the gym, or a control condition.  Control participants visited the gym 0.75 times, on average, in the first week of the study. Participants in the intermediate treatment condition made a regression-adjusted additional 0.27 gym visits, a marginally significant difference relative to the control, while those in the full treatment group made a regression-adjusted additional 0.48 gym visits, a meaningful and significant increase (p < 0.01). Both the full and intermediate treatment effects decreased significantly over time. At the nine-week study’s conclusion, 61% of participants opted to pay to have access to iPods containing tempting audio novels restricted to the gym, suggesting a market for temptation bundling devices, a new type of commitment device.

Suggested Citation

Milkman, Katherine L. and Minson, Julia A. and Volpp, Kevin, Holding the Hunger Games Hostage at the Gym: an Evaluation of Temptation Bundling (June 6, 2013). The Wharton School Research Paper No. 45. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2183859

Katherine L. Milkman (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Julia A. Minson

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3733 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6374
United States

Kevin Volpp

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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