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Temptation Bundling


Techniques General persuasion > More methods > Temptation Bundling

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Make it more motivating to do something people do not want to do by connecting this action with something they really enjoy. Ensure the pleasure can only be gained by engaging in the unwanted action.

Done well, the person will end up enjoying the unwanted action more than before, as well as the pleasurable activity.

The reverse can be also used, connecting an unwanted action with other actions that you know you should not do.

The core of temptation bundling is 'want-should coupling', where a 'should' is motivated by attaching it to a 'want'. In the reverse, a 'should not' is coupled with a 'do not want'.


A gym shows exclusive and desirable movies and TV shows. It gets a lot more members who normally would not go to the gym.

A person who does not like studying but does like coffee, perhaps in excess, does their studying in a coffee shop. They restrict the number of coffees there, having on cup per fifty text book pages read.

A person who knows they should not eat junk food decides they will only buy this type of food in the outlet at the other side of town, and that they will run there rather than drive. In this way, they get exercise that helps burn off any extra fat being eaten. It also dissuades them a lot of the time.


Katherine Milkman, a professor at Wharton, had trouble keeping up attendance at the gym, so she decided to listen to fiction audiobooks that she liked only when she was exercising. It worked and she decided to research this further. The result was 'temptation bundling', which involves "coupling instantly gratifying 'want' activities with engagement in a 'should behavior' that provides long-term benefits but requires the exertion of willpower". This 'want-should conflict' is a common pattern throughout our lives.

Temptation bundling gets around problems such as procrastination, when a 'should' activity is put off, and attempts at suppression just leads to you thinking about the desired item even more ('I must not eat cake. ... Eat cake, hmmm.').

This effectively happens when commercial companies pair pleasant things with non-liked activities, for example a gym using attractive opposite-sex trainers, or banks offering free coffee to regular savers.

See also

Motivation, Conditioning, Association principle, Opportunity, Temptation and Willpower


Milkman, K.L., Minson, J.A. and Volpp, K.G.M. (2013). Holding the Hunger Games Hostage at the Gym: An Evaluation of Temptation Bundling, Management Science: Articles in Advance. 2013:1-17.


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