Discussion paper

DP13806 Motivational Goal Bracketing: An Experiment

We study theoretically and experimentally how the bracketing of non-binding goals in a repeated task affects the level of goals that people set for themselves, the actual effort provided, and the pattern of effort over time. In our model, a sophisticated or (partially) naive individual faces a motivational problem because of present-biased preferences. Using an online, real-effort experiment that varied whether subjects set separate daily goals for how much to work over a one-week period or one weekly goal, we find support for the theoretical predictions. Subjects with daily goals set higher goals in aggregate and provided more effort than those with a weekly goal. The higher effort was driven by the higher goals set. Additional treatments complemented internal commitment through goals with an externally enforced minimum work requirement to get started working each day. Here, average performance dropped because of high dropout.


Nafziger, J and A Koch (2019), ‘DP13806 Motivational Goal Bracketing: An Experiment‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 13806. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp13806