May 21, 2008

Commitment Contracts

If you really want to finish your paper before this week-end, and stop delaying it because you are too lazy, you can buy a "Commitment Contract" from Stickk.

Stickk, a company created by two Yale economists, Dean Karlan and Ian Ayres, forces its customers to think about their future selves by selling "Commitment Contracts," which require the completion of a specified task that you might otherwise put off (finishing a paper, quitting smoking, losing weight). When you sign the contract, you hand over a sum of money and get it back only if you keep your commitment by a particular date. So, rather than having a vague and distant motivation for finishing that dissertation, there's the much more immediate cost of seeing your $1,000 disappear. So is Stickk's business model to bet against our ability to resist procrastinating? Not quite. Stickk makes its money from advertising, not from its customers. If you fail to live up to the terms of your contract, your money goes to a randomly selected charity. Or, if you want some extra motivation, you can have your commitment payment go to an "anti-charity" of your choosing. They cater to all tastes—both Americans United for Life and the Pro-Choice America Foundation are possible recipients.

This paragraph was taken from

1 comment:

cosi said...

Negative sanctions like this could work out, but not as well as the following postive sanction: Imagine a conditional offer for a desirable job (you get the job iff you defend your PhD). That would put on the table much more money that I would rationally bet against myself, overboosting my incentives!