Near Cares More

We care more about things in near view, vs. far view. So getting you to see your future self in a more near mode helps you to care about helping that future self:

Tessa Price, a 22-year-old college senior, is gazing into a mirror in a virtual-reality laboratory at Stanford University. Looking back at her is Tessa Price—at the age of 68. Staring into a mirror today and seeing yourself as you will look in the year 2057 is unnerving. But that may be just what it takes to shock Americans into saving more. … In one experiment, young people who saw their elderly avatars reported they would save twice as much as those who didn’t. In another, students averaging 21 years of age viewed avatars of themselves that smiled when they saved more and frowned when they saved less. Those whose avatars were morphed to retirement age said they would save 30% more than those whose avatars weren’t aged. … Getting specific. … When people spend three to five minutes imagining and writing down how they would feel in a comfortable and worry-free retirement, they become roughly 25 percentage points more likely to increase their savings on the spot. (more)

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  • g

    It would be more interesting (but also more difficult) to correlate students’ thoughts about their own futures, not with what they *say* they will save but with what they actually do save.

  • Mark M

    I wonder about the half-life of that effect. One exposure to your future feeble self seems unlikely to create an enduring impression. You may need regular reminders.

  • Vaniver

    I wonder how sophisticated the algorithm is- I’m already balding at 23. Will it finish the job, or just show me what hair I have left, all white?

    I’m also curious if the actual savings patterns differ. Like Mark M suggests, looking at a picture of old you every morning might make you save more than just seeing it once.

    (I’m also curious what that would do to people’s perception of the aging process. It seems like people would be less troubled by it, since they’ll have had more time to get used to the idea of being old- but it also seems like it might cause the transition from ‘thinking of yourself as young’ to ‘thinking of yourself as old’ to happen far sooner, because instead of looking in the mirror and thinking you’re still 45% young, you’d look in the mirror and think “hm, I look more like the extrapolated old me than I look like my college graduation photos. I must be old.”)