Making good choices

How interrupting our routine can help us make better financial decisions

Controlling what we buy and how much we spend is key to financial stability. But, how can we help people break their bad habits and make good financial choices? That is the question University of Toronto researcher Dilip Soman is trying to answer.

Soman is investigating “decision points”—the breaks in the decision-making process that make people stop and evaluate their choices.

In a series of experiments run since 2013, Soman has found that creating artificial partitions—anything from dividing a tray of cookies into several sections, to paying cash salaries out in instalments—helps people control their consumption.

By the time the SSHRC-funded study closes in 2017, Soman hopes to better understand the cognitive mechanisms behind the decision points effect, and to design interventions that can be used in a wide range of applications—from financial planning to weight loss to corporate productivity.