Personalizing Precommitment

25 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2018 Last revised: 20 Feb 2019

See all articles by Lee Anne Fennell

Lee Anne Fennell

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: September 28, 2018


This paper examines the potential for tailored precommitments to help people address self-control problems. There are practical and normative limits on the degree to which people can bind themselves in ways that they cannot later escape, but law can offer mechanisms that would help people design and implement flexible precommitments. Research suggests two potential lines for innovation. First, partitioning access to resources may constrain consumption in contexts from dieting to saving, even when the partitions can be unilaterally broken. Second, the chunkiness of the increments in which people make choices can have a powerful influence on behavior. In public finance and regulatory contexts, law could support choice design and menu personalization aimed at harnessing these effects, based on individualized data, to better serve people’s own objectives.

Keywords: personalization, precommitment, self-control, public finance, personal finance, menus, internalities

Suggested Citation

Fennell, Lee Anne, Personalizing Precommitment (September 28, 2018). 86 University of Chicago Law Review 433 (2019); University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 861; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 687. Available at SSRN:

Lee Anne Fennell (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

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