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Public commitment pledge explanation - a soft commitment device shown by someone battling a desire to eat cookies with a public commitment

Public commitment pledge

Public commitment pledges are a surprisingly effective and free way to help you reach your goals. A public commitment pledge is simply writing what you will or won't do, perhaps something you know you find hard, signing it and displaying it publicly.

In her excellent book, How to Change, Katy Milkman describes how the simple intervention of a public commitment pledge in doctors' offices significantly reduced prescriptions of unnecessary antibiotics—just through a poster on the wall. Commitment pledges are a form of what Katy calls a soft commitment device (of Odysseus fame). This strategy helps us stick to our commitments even when tempted to go astray.

Pledges may work through our desire for consistency and create cognitive dissonance when considering going against the pledge. The benefits of what we desire to do, say "eat cookies," are pitted against the potential guilt or discomfort we'd feel by going against what we said we'd do, not "eat cookies." You don't want to let yourself down. The pledge gives us a greater chance of sticking to our actions and a defence against our present bias.

Is there something you wish you'd do more of or less of? A simple public commitment pledge could help you on your way.

Other free ways to help you achieve your goals: Temptation bundlingThe Fresh Start Effectcommitment deviceNine-enders, Implementation intentions

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