In a fascinating study on improving gym attendance, researchers have found that people who were allowed to access tempting audiobooks of their choice ONLY when they were in the gym were more likely to attend!
Interestingly, this study found that when people were allowed to listen to these audiobooks outside of the gym, they were less likely to attend compared to those who had restricted audiobook access. And amongst those with restricted access, the largest effects were found for those who had the busiest schedules. Put another way, if you’re busy, like listening to audiobooks and need to work out at the gym, doing both of these things at once can save you considerable amounts of time.
At the end of the study, everybody was entered into a lottery where they had the exciting chance of winning an iPod packed full of audiobooks. If they won, they were asked whether they’d be willing to pay researchers to take the iPod away from them, with access only being given when at the gym. Surprisingly, a whopping 61% of participants agreed to do this! Just what now??? That we’re so willing is crazy, really…
And it just seems so irrational, doesn’t it? To think that people are willing to pay for a restriction, when they can access the same stuff when they want, and for free too! But as soon as you start to think of the iPod as a tool to help you keep up with your commitment (what’s known as a commitment device) to stay fit, temptation bundling starts to make sense. You want to stay committed to the gym, so if you know that the Hunger Games audiobook can get you get there, you’re willing to pay for using it. Those of us who engage in health-related behaviours often show an intention to stay committed to their health goals, and if temptation bundling can help them do this, it may just be the commitment device of the future.
Holding the Hunger Games Hostage at the Gym: An Evaluation of Temptation Bundling PDF (Milkman, Minson & Volpp, 2013)
Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines PDF (Ashraf, Karlan & Yin, 2004)
Stickk - A commitment device Web service