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Selected Research

How Incentive Framing Can Harness the Power of Social Norms

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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 Boring Consumer Behaviors

Lieberman, Alicea, Andrea C. Morales, and On Amir (in press), “Tangential Immersion: Increasing Persistence in Boring Consumer Behaviors,” 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 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., toothbrushing, coordination exercise) and with different tangential tasks (reading, listening, viewing). Two important boundaries arise: first, the focal behavior must be low-attention, 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 exceeding attentional capacity. 

The Effect of Deadlines of Cancer Screening Completion


Lieberman, Alicea, Ayelet Gneezy...Samir Gupta (2021), “The Effect of Deadlines on Cancer Screening Completion: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Scientific Reports, 11(13876).

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. In a large, preregistered field experiment (n=7,711), we tested whether deadlines—both with and without monetary incentives tied to them—increase colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. 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 suggest that merely imposing deadlines—especially short ones—can significantly increase CRC screening completion, and may also have implications for other forms of cancer screening.

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