NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Getting to the Top of Mind: How Reminders Increase Saving

Dean Karlan, Margaret McConnell, Sendhil Mullainathan, Jonathan Zinman

NBER Working Paper No. 16205
Issued in July 2010
NBER Program(s):   AG

We develop and test a simple model of limited attention in intertemporal choice. The model posits that individuals fully attend to consumption in all periods but fail to attend to some future lumpy expenditure opportunities. This asymmetry generates some predictions that overlap with models of present-bias. Our model also generates the unique predictions that reminders may increase saving, and that reminders will be more effective when they increase the salience of a specific expenditure. We find support for these predictions in three field experiments that randomly assign reminders to new savings account holders.

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A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the 2010 number 3 issue of the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health. You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16205

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