I find Beeminder too hard to use, from an interface point of view. So I'm using the same principle - key metrics to track either as a percetange of or the hard metric itself.

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I'm growing a beard. There are days when it looks bad (or when I'm inclined to think that it does), there are days when it itches, there are infinite chances to "break the chain," which in this case is a literal, physical thing that grows with time and that starts from zero when you "fail."

You would think the idea of NOT shaving each day would be an easier habit than actively doing a thing each day, but in terms of being the opposite of "impulsiveness," it's not really different.

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A recent debate on whether or not it actually does help to eat breakfast (summary: the evidence is pretty weak):http://www.reddit.com/r/ask... 

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What I get from what you're saying is that, one isn't necessarily always *commiting* the sunk-cost fallacy by using BeeMinder, but in doing so, one exercises (and thus strengthens) the method of thought that causes the sunk-cost fallacy.

If my interpretation is correct, I think it's a bit of a stretch to claim that BeeMinder is ultimately detrimental or that it will cause sunk-cost thinking to infect a person's being. To me, it seems like a legitimate use of System 1's mechanics. Being motivated by incrimental steps, and more motivated the closer you get to your goal seems no more a promotion of sunk-cost thinking than any method of thought that makes use of System 1 via conscious approval of System 2. (i.e. - When a one immediately assumes people at a NASCAR race enjoy racing, that generalization doesn't necessarily promote racism. Though both might rely on the "group generalization" method of thought, one is surely more reasonable than the other.)

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you, katja, are a wonderful addition to overcoming bias. i always look forward to reading your stuff--(and certainly appreciate the warning ahead of time when something is going to get "technical")--because your thoughts are interesting at intellectual AND practical levels, seem well grounded in theory, and are fabulously amusing to read. your style! i really dig your style. thanks for making me smile. with your style. (now i'm betting i'm scaring you.)

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BeeMinder encourages you to leverage sunk-cost thinking for instrumentally rational purposes

This isn't apparent. Can you explain?

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It is dependent on the extent to which your most prominent motivation is based on whether or not the goal is worth reaching (decided by information independent of your investment).

The reasoning's unsoundness doesn't depend on whether the conclusion is warranted or whether the fallacy is the decisive point in your deliberations. BeeMinder encourages you to leverage sunk-cost thinking for instrumentally rational purposes: treating "sunk costs" as a useful fiction. Since System 1 doesn't distinguish between useful fictions and truth, this practice is likely to encourage sunk-cost thinking in general, including the many instances where its harmful, except when System 2 intervenes.

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I think sunk-cost thinking would be something along these lines:

- Neglecting information telling you that your current goal is no good, because you've already invested into it (and don't want to feel like you've wasted resources). In other words, if you continue to invest in a goal solely because you've already invested in it—despite information telling you it's a bad investment—you're commiting the sunk-cost fallacy.

- Assuming your goal's probability of success, benefits, etc. are better than they actually are because you've already invested in it. In other words, it's your prior investment that determines your view of your goal's success—not the information known regardless of your investment.

That is, sunk-cost refers to motivation for investment in a bad goal because of past investment, regardless of information telling you that continued investment is not worth it. It is not dependent on you simply being motivated by some factor. It is dependent on the extent to which your most prominent motivation is based on whether or not the goal is worth reaching (decided by information independent of your investment).

If your goal is to jump rope 80 times, being more motivated to get to 80 when you're at 70 jumps isn't sunk-cost. If your goal is to follow the Atkins diet for 30 days and you find out that the Atkins diet is a hoax 25 days in, but continue to follow it because you're already 25 days in, it *is* sunk-cost.

Beeminder motivates you towards completing your goals, and the closer you get to a goal, the more motivated you are. If you've chosen goals you now know are detrimental and are continuing to follow them because of Beeminder—then you're committing the sunk-cost fallacy. What should ultimately determine your want to complete a goal is whether or not the goal is worth completing. Let's hope that people using Beeminder are using it to motivate themselves in reaching beneficial goals, where prior information has already told them their investment will be good.

Also, disclaimer: I'm a long time lurker and have little educational background in anything that'd give me insight into various fallacies—my understanding of the sunk-cost fallacy might be... well... fallacious.

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You probably feel more compelled to keep going and make it to 80 than you did when you started. In general, once you have successfully done something a string of times, doing it again seems more desirable.

How is this different from the sunk-cost fallacy?

Like the whole behavior- modification/cognitive-behavioral school of psychological thinking, these excessively "near-mode" (http://tinyurl.com/6pt9eq5) approaches ignore the "meta-lessons" their practice instills.

Prediction Your dwelling place will become more cluttered as sunk-cost thinking further infects your being (cf your earlier essay on disorganized collections).

Luke Muehlhauser's summary, by the way, is woefully obsolete; Luke omitted the two recent gigantic developments relevant to the field: construal-level theory and ego-depletion theory. (http://tinyurl.com/7d2yh6x)

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Nice. Thanks for sharing Katja!

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Ooh, allow me to argue, self-interestedly, that this is the wrong way to think of it! You can spend money on, say, a gym membership even though that's half Jess's money, right? If Beeminder makes you awesomer then it's probably Jess-approved.

I think the key (grains of salt ready?) is to think of the money you pay for the occasional derailment as just part of the process of working your way towards god-like awesomeness.

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I don't think I'm Beeminder's target market; because my money is also Jess's, I can't punish myself by spending it without punishing her and I don't feel able to do that. That said, I have fallen off all three of my Beeminder roads. One was a genuine failure of will; one because I set too ambitious a target; and the last because there was no way for me to deal with disruptions like being ill, being away etc. I would like a tool that allowed me to simply track my progress against a target, with none of the extra anti-akrasia features that Beeminder provides, but Beeminder has a revenue model and such a tool wouldn't have that...

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Personally, I (along with Bethany Soule) agree with this so hard that we literally created Beeminder. :)

Also, holy cow are we in love with Katja Grace right now!

Danny of Beeminder

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LOL about "slow on the uptake ... making habits at all". For some people, forming habits is the hardest thing of all. I was 25 before I had any consistency about which way the toilet paper roll was installed, whether I slept at the head or foot of the bed (or on the bed at all), and so on.

Personally, I think it's better for people to understand, apply, and experiment with the motivations behind a generic framework like Beeminder than to adopt a framework. Implementing these processes yourself is not so difficult, and has its rewards.

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