This reprinted article originally appeared in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2012(AUG), 141 (3), 429-432. (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 2011-26496-001). Americans are not saving enough for retirement. Previous research suggests that this is due, in part, to people’s tendency to think of the future self as more like another person than like the present self, making saving feel like giving money away rather than like investing in oneself. Using objective employer saving data, a field experiment capitalized on this phenomenon to increase saving. It compared the effectiveness of a novel message—one appealing to people’s sense of “social” responsibility to their future selves—with a more traditional appeal to people’s sense of rational self-interest. The social-responsibility-to-the-future-self message resulted in larger increases in saving than the self-interest message, but only to the extent that people felt a strong “social” connection to their future selves. These results broaden our understanding of the psychology of moral responsibility and refine our understanding of the role of future-self continuity in fostering intertemporal patience. They further demonstrate how understanding conceptions of the self over time can suggest solutions to important and challenging policy problems.
Bryan, C. J., &Hershfield, H. E. (2012). You owe it to yourself: Boosting retirement saving with a responsibility-based appeal. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(3), 429-432.