If you’ve read harry potter and the half blood prince,you might be familiar with the title. When Snape was bounded by death to kill the Hogwarts head master, Albus Dumbledore, which was meant for Draco, Narcissa made a smart move in attempting to protect his son. It’s a do or die situation literally. Snape made a commitment to kill Dumbledore by making an unbreakable vow, in the muggle world known as “commitment devices”.
If you scroll through the timeline of Facebook you’ll see ‘catchy’ new year resolutions. The difference between commitment devices and new year resolutions is that the commitment devices often work, whereas new year resolutions are some broken promises kept to yourself where you keep renewing each year.
According to a paper published in Yale; ‘commitment device’ is a theoretical concept used in behavioral economics, where the present person restricts a certain behavior from doing it in the future. You come across commitment devices in all walks of life.
When you buy a gym membership in advance so that you force yourself to go to the gym, or perhaps if you open a fixed deposit merely because of the fact that you don’t save much, or when you promise your friend to buy her a “polka-dot Saree” for every lecture you bunk, you force yourself to practice a good behavior ,as well as your friend encourages to go for lectures which keeps her wardrobe from getting piled up by sarees she doesn’t like; keeps you from not doing the activity because of a certain cost. However, commitment devices can come in different shapes and sizes which makes it hard because of the unpredictable nature of the human behavior and also it merely depends on the self satisfaction or utility endorsed which could change at anytime. Suppose you make your mind to work hard this semester and get good grades keeping bait as your future dream job as the commitment device; at the end of the semester, you somehow get good grades and lose the utility you “had”, about achieving that particular goal, you might not tend to work in the next semester because you are too swollen headed.
As mentioned above, commitment devices are of two types. Soft commitment devices are promises with only psychological factor being the main component. For instance, if you promise your friend that you wouldn’t try weed ever again just because of the sake of your friendship (Which I’m experiencing now), you experience a psychological factor. Although soft commitments take a high individualistic approach, values could be calculated using the utility or the mental satisfaction you get comparatively. The other type of commitment is hard commitments, which takes an economic approach to the concept. When you open up an account for your kid, just for the purpose of their college education, you sacrifice that transaction motive of money just to see your kid get a good college education. This could be calculated either as a cost or a benefit according to personal perspectives. If you are a person with a simple life style who would sacrifice everything including the costs of inflation, costs of giving away liquidity etc.. you would see opening up a bank account for your child is a future investment. But there are exceptions in the society who are alcoholics, chocoholics, and shopaholics. However, there are other factors that could control negative behaviors, like saving money you spent on food as to taking precautionary measures of;
1. Saving up money for speculative motive.
2. Controlling your cholesterol which creates a possibility to have French fries without any health concerns when you grow old.
3. Being aware that you have to spend money on your medical bills which is a “must” to enjoy good food in the first place. 🙂
On the other hand, commitment devices could work on other ways too. Such as you rewarding yourself with a drama on Netflix when you study for half an hour, which I noticed when my neighbor was training her dog, and another way is you could force another person, to hold on to a certain commitment as my mother rewards my little brother with half an hour of Pokémon when he finishes his school work. Certainly, there are other options such as ultimatums given by your best friend which controls you from being a drug addict.
Be smart when you make new year resolution which certainly didn’t work for me of course, since I meant to post this on the new year’s eve, in making an effort to change my procrastination behavior and also to reward myself with a nice movie. On personal experience, commitment devices works well when there’s a greater cost involved and where you can get short term benefits which encourages you to practice the behavior in the long-run.
Hope you have a fabulous, non-procrastinating and a productive 2017!! Best of Luck!!!
PS: Let’s assume that all these are hypothetical examples made up for the benefit of the reader. Hope you enjoyed!!