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Incentives to Exercise

  • Gary Charness
  • Uri Gneezy

Can incentives be effective in encouraging the development of good habits? We investigate the post-intervention effects of paying people to attend a gym a number of times during one month. In two studies we find marked attendance increases after the intervention relative to attendance changes for the respective control groups. This is entirely driven by people who did not previously attend the gym on a regular basis. In our second study, we find improvements on health indicators such as weight, waist size, and pulse rate, suggesting the intervention led to a net increase in total physical activity rather than to a substitution away from nonincentivized ones. We argue that there is scope for financial intervention in habit formation, particularly in the area of health. Copyright 2009 The Econometric Society.

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Article provided by Econometric Society in its journal Econometrica.

Volume (Year): 77 (2009)
Issue (Month): 3 (05)
Pages: 909-931

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Handle: RePEc:ecm:emetrp:v:77:y:2009:i:3:p:909-931
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  1. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
  2. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2004. "Addiction and Cue-Triggered Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1558-1590, December.
  3. Becker, G.S., 1991. "Habits, Addictions, and Traditions," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 91-8, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  4. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
  5. Ernst Fehr & Armin Falk, 2002. "Psychological Foundations of Incentives," CESifo Working Paper Series 714, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 1996. "Doing It Now or Later," Discussion Papers 1172, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  8. Aldo Rustichini & Uri Gneezy, 2000. "A fine is a price," Natural Field Experiments 00258, The Field Experiments Website.
  9. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Willpower and Personal Rules," CEPR Discussion Papers 3143, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Paul Heidhues & Botond Köszegi, 2004. "The Impact of Consumer Loss Aversion on Pricing," CIG Working Papers SP II 2004-17, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), Research Unit: Competition and Innovation (CIG).
  11. Botond Kőszegi & Paul Heidhues, 2008. "Competition and Price Variation When Consumers Are Loss Averse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1245-68, September.
  12. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages S164-S187, February.
  13. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2006. "Paying Not to Go to the Gym," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 694-719, June.
  14. Frey, Bruno S & Jegen, Reto, 2001. " Motivation Crowding Theory," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(5), pages 589-611, December.
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