Self Control and Optimal Goals: A Theoretical Analysis

November 2009 | Parrish, Blake

Consumers set goals to achieve a variety of objectives such as losing weight, saving for retirement, and achieving better health. A large body of literature in psychology and consumer behavior shows that goals can help consumers achieve these objectives. However, there is almost no research that examines how we should set optimal goals. The purpose of this paper is to develop a parsimonious framework that examines how goals can help performance and how we should set optimal goals. We use the literature on hyperbolic discounting to model these issues. Our results show that goals can often increase performance but can also sometimes encourage procrastination. We show that some goals are worse than having no goals, even when the goals are achieved and the consumer exerts more effort because of the goal. We also find that the presence of goals can lead to myopic consumers behaving as if they were hyperopic. Our results also show that the most difficult goals should be assigned to consumers with moderate levels of motivation and self-control problems. We also find that it is sometimes optimal to set goals that are never achieved.

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Marketing Science