The new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research has revealed that consumers tend to overestimate progress and underestimate setbacks when pursuing goals such as dieting or saving money.
Across seven studies, the authors found evidence for the progress bias, the belief that the positive has more impact than the negative, when consumers pursued goals such as saving money, losing weight, or winning a game. The study found that consumers tend to believe they will succeed in achieving their goals and give more weight to behaviors consistent with their beliefs. For example, when on a diet, one is likely to think that not eating a doughnut makes a bigger difference than eating a doughnut. Similarly, one might think that saving 100 dollars will get one closer to the goal of saving 100,000 dollars for retirement than spending 100 dollars will take one away from reaching the goal of saving 100,000 dollars.
The authors said, "People feel that they can stop working towards a goal before they really should. This is consistent with findings that exercise programs often do not lead to weight loss because people tend to think they can eat more if they exercise more. We think the progress bias helps explain why consumers often have a hard time achieving difficult long-term goals such as managing their weight or saving for retirement."