Save Me From Myself: A Freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast

This week's podcast is a rebroadcast of one of our favorites, "Save Me From Myself." It's about commitment devices -- that is, clever ways to trick yourself, or trap yourself, into doing something that you want to do but for whatever reason (lack of willpower, maybe?) aren’t able to. Happy New Year from all of us at Freakonomics Radio!

Save Me From Myself

Season 3, Episode 1

Sometimes we have a hard time committing ourselves – whether it’s quitting a bad habit or following through on a worthy goal. In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, we share stories about “commitment devices.” They’re a clever way to force yourself to do something that you know will be hard. Host Stephen Dubner talks to a struggling gambler who signs himself up for a program that bans him from state casinos – only to return, win a jackpot, and have it confiscated. We’ll also hear from a new father trying to shed bad habits. So he makes a list of things he wants to change and vows to pay a penalty if he can’t shape up in 30 days. The penalty? He’d write a $750 check to someone he really dislikes: Oprah Winfrey. Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt offers a few of his own off-the-wall commitment devices, and the Brown economist Anna Aizer talks about using commitment devices to fight domestic violence.

Save Me From Myself: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest podcast is called "Save Me From Myself," and it's about the use of commitment devices. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)

This is a topic we've addressed quite a bit over the years, including in a Times column. (Weirdly enough, the Wikipedia entry on commitment devices leads with our definition. I don't know whether to feel proud or, a la Groucho Marx*, even more nervous about Wikipedia. FWIW, Wikipedia has gotten so, so much better than when I lodged this complaint years ago.)

A commitment device is essentially a clever means to help you commit to a course of action that you know will be hard. For an individual, this might mean losing weight, quitting smoking, or anything else involving willpower.