Can Virtual Reality Prompt Americans to Save More?

The verdict is in.  Yachts, beaches, fancy cars and images of pristine golf courses don’t motivate Americans to save for retirement. 

 It is time to try something else.

 Stamford researchers suggest that an immersion into virtual reality might help.  

 Stamford’s study tested a behavioral concept called the Proteus effect.  The theory behind the Proteus effect is that digital self-representations in virtual reality environments may cause people to alter their real life personas. 

 Let’s do it again in plain English.  A digital avatar that looks and acts like a super fit and athletic version of you may inspire you to join a gym.

 Here’s how it worked in a laboratory setting.  The Stamford team showed a control group age-morphed avatars.  They then studied whether the images had an impact on retirement saving behavior. The age-morphed avatars were as frightening as they sound – complete with receded hairlines, heavy jowls, wrinkles and eyeglasses.  And, they scared people right into action.

 Individuals who saw age-morphed avatars were likely to save 30% more for retirement than other participants whose avatars maintained current likeness.

 Technology continues to give us new and novel ways to influence our clients.  Age-morphed avatars may be extreme, but the findings shouldn’t be dismissed as absurd.  They emphasize the important role visualization plays in helping clients achieve their goals.  By helping clients visualize the future, you may be able to help them save for it.

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