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The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior

Author

Listed:
  • Hengchen Dai

    (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

  • Katherine L. Milkman

    (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

  • Jason Riis

    (The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

Abstract

The popularity of New Year's resolutions suggests that people are more likely to tackle their goals immediately following salient temporal landmarks. If true, this little-researched phenomenon has the potential to help people overcome important willpower problems that often limit goal attainment. Across three archival field studies, we provide evidence of a “fresh start effect.” We show that Google searches for the term “diet” (Study 1), gym visits (Study 2), and commitments to pursue goals (Study 3) all increase following temporal landmarks (e.g., the outset of a new week, month, year, or semester; a birthday; a holiday). We propose that these landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviors.Data, as supplemental material, are available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2014.1901 . This paper was accepted by Yuval Rottenstreich, judgment and decision making.

Suggested Citation

  • Hengchen Dai & Katherine L. Milkman & Jason Riis, 2014. "The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 60(10), pages 2563-2582, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:60:y:2014:i:10:p:2563-2582
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2014.1901
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    References listed on IDEAS

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