The Making Up for Failure Nudge: Framing Subgoals as Opportunities for Redemption Increases Goal Persistence
41 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2023
Date Written: October 2023
Small failures during goal pursuit are inevitable and often derail people from reaching their overall goals. We demonstrate the effectiveness of one simple, cost-free nudge: encouraging people to make up for small failures. For instance, the making up for failure nudge encourages people to complete more goal-consistent action today (e.g., 40 minutes) to make up for the failure to reach their goal yesterday (e.g., 20 minutes). This nudge leads people to perceive the day after a failure as an opportunity to redeem themselves, encoding missing such opportunity as experiencing two goal failures (both the past loss and the future loss), rather than one (just a future loss). As a result, people anticipate experiencing greater negative emotion about failing to miss their opportunity to redeem themselves than failing a subgoal itself. To avoid the heightened negative anticipated emotion of failing not one, but two, subgoals, people are motivated to engage in more goal-consistent behavior after failure. This effect is documented in two longitudinal real-behavior studies, four real-behavior lab studies, and two hypothetical studies across various domains (i.e., learning a new language, exercising, wordsearch game; (total N = 8,668 adults). Two relevant boundary conditions are identified, including 1) ease of making up for failure and 2) when people are encouraged to make up for their failure.
Keywords: nudge, motivation, failure, goal pursuit
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