Future Lock-In: Future Implementation Increases Selection of ‘Should’ Choices

People often experience tension over certain choices (e.g., they should reduce their gas consumption or increase their savings, but they do not want to). Some posit that this tension arises from the competing interests of a deliberative “should” self and an affective “want” self. We show that people are more likely to select choices that serve the should self (should-choices) when the choices will be implemented in the distant rather than the near future. This “future lock-in” is demonstrated in four experiments for should-choices involving donation, public policy, and self-improvement. Additionally, we show that future lock-in can arise without changing the structure of a should-choice, but by just changing people’s temporal focus. Finally, we provide evidence that the should self operates at a higher construal level (abstract, superordinate) than the want self, and that this difference in construal partly underlies future lock-in.

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APA-Format Citation

Rogers, T., & Bazerman, M. H. (2008). Future lock-in: Future implementation increases selection of ‘should’choices. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes106(1), 1-20.