The Temptation of Now

Nald GuevarraGrowth, Partner Calls

“I can resist anything except temptation.” — Oscar Wilde


On this week’s Friday Partner Call, Xperience CEO Chris Suarez dug into the temptation of now or present bias.

In a study, people were asked: If you could have a snack right now, what would you choose — a chocolate bar or an apple? Almost everyone, more than 90%, chose the chocolate bar.

When the same people were asked what they would select for tomorrow’s snack, more than 90% of the people chose the apple.

What’s the difference? The temptation of now. When asked what we are going to do right now, this second, we are always going for what is attractive, easy, comfortable and what makes us feel good. When thinking about making a choice for tomorrow, we select what is good for the long term.

Richard Thaler, the 2017 Nobel Prize winner in Economics and the co-author of Nudge, invited a group of graduate students for dinner. While dinner was cooking, he put a bowl of cashews on the table. Everyone was eating them, so he put them away. Oddly, the guests thanked him because they were going to eat them all. The first principle of economics is the fact that more choices are better than fewer choices. The students had the choice of eating the cashews, yet they got excited when that choice was taken away. Why did they get happier?

It became a self-control problem. We often make choices that we know we will regret later — like spending instead of saving for retirement.It’s present bias. People care too much about things they can have and enjoy in the present relative to things they can have, after waiting, in the future. We favor immediate small rewards like the cashews on the table over larger future rewards like dinner in the oven.Angela Duckworth dives into self-control versus present bias. Our desire for present bias gets pushed over our lifetime. Awareness of the future doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to act on your future’s best interest.  Your capacity to control yourself comes from the strategy portion of your brain. Our prefrontal cortex brain function needs to get developed. This is why we rely on tools such as our 1-3-5, 411, Perfect Week, and lead generation lever.The trick to self control is to bring the gratification of the result forward. We need to consume things in ways that are immediately pleasurable.