Lower Your Expectations for the New Year

Researchers find unrealistic optimism could lead to negative results

It's almost time to make those New Year's resolutions, but research shows you don't have to be optimistic.  A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research  examines why our expectations of our behavior don't always match reality.  "Ever sign up for a gym membership, then fail to attend more than one Pilates class or toning session? " asks Lemondrop.com.  "Unrealistic optimism by consumers may have negative consequences for both marketers and consumers, " according to study authors Robin J. Tanner of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Kurt A. Carlson of Duke University.

Lemondrop.com tested the premise with their readers and found this anecdotal evidence: Kristen of Hoboken, N.J., spent $40 on a yoga mat in May, and she planned to do sit-ups and stretches "at least four times a week and have abs like Janet Jackson by August.'" Things didn't quite go according to plan, though. "To this day, the only time I used that mat was to sit on it when I had no furniture during the first week in my apartment," confesses Kristen. Melissa of Philadelphia joined the gym, thinking "'I'm sooo going to do this,' ... and then, no. I basically gave the gym my money."         

"An important potential consequence of being overly optimistic about one's future behavior is that such optimistic beliefs may contribute to overbuying of products that see little use, " according to the research authors.

The study also showed that more decisive people were less realistic.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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