Increased Retirement Savings Through the Proteus Effect
Advisor:Jones, Lauren Eden
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Human Sciences Undergraduate Research Theses; 2017
Researchers are trying to discover what obstacles people encounter when saving for retirement. There is a conflict between the wants of today and the concerns of tomorrow when it comes to retirement savings. Some people are not very closely connected to their future self and therefore are less concerned with their wellbeing. The perspective of the present self is that the future self is a distinct person. This research seeks to make the two one by using the Proteus Effect and question framing that leads to the desired saving action. The Proteus Effect is the tendency of individuals to closely identify with their online avatar and how that affects their real world behaviors. The Proteus Effect in this experiment is assuming another’s identity and creating the desire for the present to become the future self. The way a question is asked or information is presented can influence the retirement decisions people make in a positive way for their future self. The purpose of this study is to understand why Americans are not saving enough for retirement. MTurk experiments were used to test whether e-mails from someone else or from their future self would increase retirement savings. Additionally the e-mail’s framing affect and whether adding a picture would enhance the effect were tested. The results were inconclusive due to insignificant t-tests for all hypotheses. However, the differences in means indicate positive correlation between savings rates and receiving a negatively framed e-mail with a picture of and from their future self. The intended action of increasing savings resulted from employing a low cost, low tech, low participation technique that could reduce the number of individuals that will not be “retirement ready.”
Academic Major: Consumer and Family Financial Services
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