Selected Research

How Incentive Framing Can Harness the Power of Social Norms

Lieberman, Alicea, Kristen Duke, and On Amir (2019), “How Incentive Framing Can Harness the Power of Social Norms,Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 151, 118-131.

Lieberman, Alicea and Kristen Duke (2020), “Why We’re Incentivized by Discounts and Surcharges,” Harvard Business Review.

Incentives are an increasingly common tool used to change behavior. In this research, we propose that more than just motivating behavior for monetary reasons, incentives also have an important, undiscovered consequence: they leak information about social norms. Four experiments reveal that framing an incentive as a surcharge (vs. a discount), signals that the incentivized behavior is both more socially approved and more common, motivating consumers to perform the incentivized behavior. Importantly, by shifting social norms, we find that incentives can also change behaviors among those who merely witness the incentive as well as influence behavior not only in the moment, but also downstream when there is no longer an active incentive. 

Tangential Immersion: Increasing Persistence in Low-Attention Behaviors

Lieberman, Alicea, On Amir, and Andrea C. Morales, “Tangential Immersion: Increasing Persistence in Low-Attention Behaviors,” revising for 3rd round review at Journal of Consumer Research.

Daily life is filled with myriad behaviors that benefit from persistence (e.g. hygiene, exercise), but that are often not performed for long enough. We posit that consumers often halt such behaviors prematurely because they do not satisfy attentional needs. Five experiments demonstrate that immersion in a tangential task—thereby increasing attentional demands—satisfies attentional needs and increases persistence. Tangential immersion is shown to increase persistence across a range of behaviors (e.g., strength-building, toothbrushing) and with different tangential tasks (reading, listening, viewing). Two important boundaries arise: first, the focal behavior must be low-attention (e.g., automatic), allowing consumers to sufficiently attend to the tangential task; second, the tangential task must achieve the proper level of immersion—it must sustain attention without exhausting resources. 

Procrastination Hinders Cancer Screening: Evidence From a Large Field Experiment

Lieberman, Alicea, Ayelet Gneezy...Samir Gupta, “Procrastination Hinders Colorectal Cancer Screening: Evidence From a Large Field Experiment,” under review at Scientific Reports.

Preventive screening allows for early detection and is one of the most effective approaches to reducing cancer mortality. However, screening participation is suboptimal, particularly among underserved populations. We propose that procrastination is a main driver of low screening rates. We designed an experiment to test this proposition in the context of colorectal cancer (CRC), the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. In a large, preregistered field experiment (n = 7,711) we tested whether imposing various types of deadlines would reduce procrastination, thus increasing screening completion. Relative to control, pure deadlines, as well as deadlines coupled with monetary incentives, increased completion. Moreover, individuals faced with a non-incentivized short deadline were as likely to complete screening as individuals who received an incentivized deadline. These results support the proposed role of procrastination in hindering medical screening, and show that a low-cost intervention attenuating procrastination can significantly increase completion.

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