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BEyond Willpower: InterTemporal CHoice Improved through NudginG

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BEWITCHING (BEyond Willpower: InterTemporal CHoice Improved through NudginG)

Reporting period: 2016-11-01 to 2018-04-30

Many decisions involve intertemporal choice: a choice between options whose consequences occur at different points in time. For example, choosing whether or not to eat cake when you also want to lose weight this month. Remarkably, we often choose small immediate rewards (e.g. eat cake) over large future benefits (e.g. lose weight), despite different intentions. How can we become better at resisting temptations and align our behavior with our long-term intentions? ‘Nudging’, a concept from behavioral economics, appears a promising strategy: by designing choice contexts that exploit our cognitive biases, it gently guides us into making choices that are better for ourselves and society. One way to nudge intertemporal choice is by ‘framing’ the timing of the choice outcome in a certain way: e.g. we make more patient choices when future outcomes are described in terms a speedup than in terms of a deferral (Figure 1A) or when they are described in terms of calendar dates than in terms of corresponding delays (Figure 1B). However, the use of time framing in practice is hampered because we do not know how time framing works. If we do not address this problem, we will not understand our seemingly irrational choices and we will be limited in developing novel framing interventions that change behavior. To address this problem, this project aims to determine the mechanisms of time framing in intertemporal choice, using a behavioral experiment and new computational models. Our working hypothesis is that time framing changes how we perceive time.
The project is in progress. Work performed from the beginning of the project included data management planning (available at: pre-registration of hypotheses and detailed analysis plan (to be released upon publication of the study), as well as development of a computational model (available at: intertemporal choice paradigm (available at: and study design. Data collection and data analysis are in progress.
Expected results until the end of the project will include dissemination of study findings through an open access scientific publication (targeted at scientists) and a blogpost (targeted at non-scientists). Also, analysis code and (de-identified) data will be released, allowing others to reproduce the findings and build on them.

The results of this research have the potential to provide scientists, policymakers, clinicians, and businesses with a deeper understanding of how framing influences our choices. This knowledge may help guide smart policies and nudge-based technologies that promote future-minded behavior and reduce societal costs in Europe and the rest of the world.