A friend of mine from Penn, HengChen Dai, have been writing and publishing papers about this phenomenon called the “Fresh Start Effect”, which I find particularly relevant as I board my flight to San Francisco. Her and her collaborators found that people are more likely to make aspirational changes such as exercising more or quitting smoking whenever there’s a new start. Remember two weeks ago when everyone was crafting their New Year Resolutions? That’s because of the fresh start effect too. When the calendar turned to a new year, you feel a little detached from the 2016 “I-spent-too-much-time-on-the-couch” self and more connected to the 2017 “I-am-determined-to-exercise” self. At these fresh start moments, you’re more empowered that you’ll be able to accomplish these goals.
These researchers looked at Google searches and found that searches for keywords towards aspirational goals such as “diet” increased by 82.1% on Jan 1st compared to the searches of an average day! This effect is not limited to New Years, but also applies to a new month, a new semester at school, a new city, a new job, etc. I’m excited to be starting a new role as a research associate and also moving to a new city – so, double up the fresh start effect! It’s definitely a time for me to set goals, both professional and personal ones, and use this fresh start as an opportunity to make positive changes or at least experiment with different things.
For those nudgers out there, you might want to take advantage of the fresh start effect when you’re thinking of a good time for behavioral interventions. Phrasing and implementing the intervention as a fresh start will give the effect an extra boost!
Source: Dai, Hengchen, Katherine L. Milkman, and Jason Riis. “The fresh start effect: Temporal landmarks motivate aspirational behavior.” Management Science 60.10 (2014): 2563-2582.