Hugh Pickens writes "The WSJ reports that computer scientists, economists, neuroscientists and psychologists are teaming up to find innovative ways of turning impulsive spenders into patient savers. One way to shock Americans into saving more for their retirement is software that lets users stare into a camera in a virtual-reality laboratory and see an image staring back of how they will look in the year 2057. By enabling the young to see themselves as they will be when they are old, virtual-reality technology can transform their urge to spend for today into a willingness to save for tomorrow because to the extent that people can more vividly imagine how badly they will feel in the future with little to no retirement savings, they can be motivated to save more money now. In one test experimental subjects who saw a persuasive visual analog of a 70-year old version of themselves by morphing the shape and texture of his avatar to simulate the aging process reported they would save twice as much as those who didn't (PDF). 'An employee's ID photo could be age-morphed and placed on the benefits section of the company's website,' says Dan Goldstein of London Business School. 'From there, we're just a few clicks and a few minutes away from someone making a lasting decision that can be worth thousands [of dollars].'"
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