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EMAC 2022 Annual

Future incentives to reduce mobile phone usage

Published: May 24, 2022


Jeeva Somasundaram, IE Business School; Laura Zimmermann, IE University; Quang Duc Pham, IE Business School


Most people would like to reduce their smartphone usage but fail to do so due to addictive nature of many smartphone applications. Building on the theory of rational addiction, we conducted two pre-registered randomized control trials that aim to reduce subject’s smartphone usage by providing temporary monetary incentives and targets over a period of time. When future targets and incentives to reduce mobile usage are pre-announced, subjects conduct themselves in a forward-looking manner and reduce their mobile usage even before they are actually incentivized to do so. Subjects continue to maintain a lower usage during the incentive period and sustain that lower usage even after the incentives are removed. Using the theoretical framework of rational addiction, we show that pre-announcing future targets and incentives could be a cost-effective intervention to kick start behavioral change.