Hershfield, H., Goldstein, D., Sharpe, W., Fox, J., Yeykelis, L., Carstensen, L., & Bailenson, J. (2011). Increasing saving behavior through age-progressed renderings of the future self. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(SPL), S23–S37.
- The study’s objective was to determine whether contact with an age-progressed visual representation of the self led participants to allocate more money to savings for retirement. The authors presented four random assignment studies relying on varying degrees of contact with these age-progressed visual representations in an attempt to pinpoint their effect on retirement savings behavior and the mechanism through which such representations alter savings attitudes.
- In the four experiments discussed here, the authors collected data directly from participants by administering post-intervention surveys or collecting hypothetical asset allocation information.
- The study found that participants who saw age-progressed pictures of themselves chose to allocate a significantly higher proportion of hypothetical income to retirement compared to a control group; the participants in this study were drawn from a group of adults ages 18 to 35. Results were similar in three other experiments using undergraduate students.
- The quality of the causal evidence presented in this study is high. This means we are confident the differences in outcomes observed between treated and control groups resulted from the interventions tested, and not other factors.
Interactions with Age-Processed Visual Representation of the Self
- In the first study, undergraduate students in the intervention group allocated more funds to the retirement account. However, this result was not statistically significant at standard levels using a two-sided test.
- In the second study, students in the intervention group exhibited a greater tendency to delay consumption or receipt of funds when measures were tested jointly, although the differences were not individually statistically significant at standard levels using a two-sided test.
- In the third study, undergraduate students in the intervention group exhibited a tendency to allocate a significantly higher percentage of pay to retirement.
- In the fourth study (the only experiment conducted on a working population), participants in the intervention group allocated a significantly higher percentage of pay to retirement than the control group, 6.17 percent vs. 4.41 percent.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The first three experiments used data from undergraduate students, with each containing 21 to 50 participants. The fourth used data from 40 adults across the United States who were recruited to participate in the study through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Because none of the experiments’ participants were currently in the workforce full time, their actions may not reflect the actions of employed adults (the population of interest for this topic area). In addition, the results in this study should be interpreted carefully, as the outcomes analyzed relate to hypothetical, and not actual, savings behavior.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence provided in this study is high because all four experiments were well executed. This means we can be confident the estimated effects are attributable to the interventions, and not to other factors.