New numbers game

New research from Olin suggests it might be easier to lose weight if your goal is 2-4 pounds instead of 3 pounds. Sound crazy? Read on.

Consumers are more likely to pursue goals when they are ambitious yet flexible, according to a new study co-authored by Stephen M. Knowlis, the August A. Busch Jr. Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Olin Business School.

“Whether a goal is a high-low range goal (lose two to four pounds this week) or a single number goal (lose three pounds this week) has a systematic effect on goal reengagement,” writes Knowlis.

Steve Nowlis

“High-low range goals influence consumer goal reengagement through feelings of accomplishment, which itself is driven by the attainability and challenge of the goal,” Knowlis explains.

The study, ”The Effect of Goal Specificity on Consumer Goal Reengagement,” written with Maura Scott, PhD, of Florida State University, appears in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Consumers often have a choice about the types of goals they want to set for themselves, and they may want to repeat various goals over time. For example, consumers often re-engage goals such as losing weight, saving money, or improving their exercise or sports performance.

In one study conducted by the authors, consumers in a weight loss program set either high-low range goals or single number goals. At the end of the program, consumers with high-low range goals re-enrolled in the program at higher rates even though there was no difference in actual average weight loss across the two groups.

In other studies, consumers exhibited similar behaviors with other goals such as resisting tempting foods, solving puzzles or playing a grocery shopping game.

A high-low range goal can offer “the best of both worlds” compared to a single number goal due to its flexibility: the high end of the goal (lose four pounds) increases the challenge of the goal, while the low end (lose two pounds) increases its attainability.

On the other hand, a single number goal (lose three pounds) may be perceived as a compromise and therefore both less challenging and less attainable.

“Consumers are more likely to pursue a goal when they set a high-low range goal instead of a single number goal. Consumers experience a greater sense of accomplishment when a goal is both attainable and challenging, and this makes them want to continue to pursue or reengage their goal,” the authors conclude.

- Neil Schoenherr wrote this news release for WUSTL Newsroom

Scale photo credit: davidd puuikibeach, flickr

In Business & Research
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2 Responses to "New numbers game"

  1. avatar Crack The MBA

    Thank You Neil. Your article is very informative. Setting the high-low range goal in life would be a great factor to improve in life then have a single number. Also you get a range so you can work through it easily. http://crackthemba.com/

  2. avatar Crack The MBA

    Thank you for this informative post on managing waitlists.

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