Monday, February 11, 2008

The Incentive of the Stickk

I've got plenty bugging me this morning, as I learn of new bits of stupidity surrounding the credit crunch and bond market. I want to, instead, focus on a lighter bit from the economist this week on incentives to keep yourself to your own everyday commitments. Then-MIT Economists John Romalis and Dean Karlan (each has moved on - to Chicago and Yale, respectively) wanted to lose weight. So each set a goal, and if one made the goal and the other didn't he had to pay a hefty $10,000 fine; if neither made it the one farthest from their goal had to pony up $5,000.

So they brought the idea to the masses: lets people put their money (or simply their pride) where their mouth is. All monies go to charity (if you really want to make it an incentive, choose a charity you don't particularly like such as an opposing political party). The catch is that you have to have a credible monitor who will report you when you fail and you should make sure what ever "stickk" you choose, it is sufficient to motivate you. We should remember the example from Steven Levitt's Freakonomics where daycare companies charged a fee for late pickups... and tardiness increased, proving that pecuniary incentives can sometimes be weaker than our own consciences.


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