Showing posts from May, 2008

Three kinds of structure

The motivation principle: People act in their best interest, in the light of the information available to them, over a time period that they can accurately foresee.

The first two of these statements seem relatively obvious but perhaps the third is not so clear. It means that people will not take an action today, for some nebulous potential benefit one day in the future. They must gain something in return for the action either immediately, or within a time horizon that they can clearly grasp. How long is that? If I make a calm and considered decision, the time horizon may be as much as a few hours; while in the heat of the moment it may only be a few seconds. Either way, in order to act in my longer-term interest, I must get some kind of short-term payoff or else it's too easy to sell out on my decision. For example, if I want to lose ten pounds and be able to run a marathon in six months, I won't succeed unless I give myself incentives that keep paying off for all those early m…