Katherine Milkman, Knowledge@Wharton, 'Fresh Start' Effect

Katherine Milkman, Knowledge@Wharton, 'Fresh Start' Effect

The "fresh start effect" behavioral study co-authored by LDI Senior Fellow Katherine Milkman is the subject of an extensive advance Knowledge@Wharton article. The study, slated for
Katherine Milkman

publication in the journal, Management Science, found that "fresh starts" on specific event dates -- like a birthday, an anniversary or the beginning of a school semester -- can enable people to be more effective at setting and achieving goals.

'Temporal landmarks'
Milkman and her co-authors call such events "temporal landmarks" and say they cause many people to evaluate their lives and consider new directions. Thus, these milestone events provide potential pivots for influencing an individual's behavior.

"We may be able to create them for ourselves," Milkman told Knowedge @Wharton. "For example, United Nations Day might be tomorrow, and I might decide to view it as a 'fresh start,'" notes Milkman. "There might be a big landmark we notice, and we can just decide to start fresh from that day. [It's a demarcation] that my past failures are behind me. I can tackle new things."

Potential use
One potential behavioral economics use of the "fresh start effect" could well be in the effort to move large employee populations toward healthier lifestyle choices.

Milkman, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Operations and Information Management at Penn's Wharton School and an affiliated faculty member at the LDI Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE).