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Self-Control and Optimal Goals: A Theoretical Analysis


  • Sanjay Jain

    () (Mays Business School, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843)


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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  • Sanjay Jain, 2009. "Self-Control and Optimal Goals: A Theoretical Analysis," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 28(6), pages 1027-1045, 11-12.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:28:y:2009:i:6:p:1027-1045

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    Cited by:

    1. Berg, Nathan & Kim, Jeong-Yoo, 2010. "Demand for Self Control: A model of Consumer Response to Programs and Products that Moderate Consumption," MPRA Paper 26593, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Sanjay Jain, 2012. "Self-Control and Incentives: An Analysis of Multiperiod Quota Plans," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(5), pages 855-869, September.
    3. Sanjay Jain, 2012. "Marketing of Vice Goods: A Strategic Analysis of the Package Size Decision," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(1), pages 36-51, January.


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