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In Brief: Goal Ranges May Help Stick to That Goal

Goals notebookDieters may stick to that healthy eating pattern longer, and ultimately be more successful, if they make a goal to lose 6 to 8 pounds rather than 7, suggests a new study that finds setting a goal range rather than a number may spur us to stick with that main goal.

The study conducted five tests, ranging from weight loss to saving money. In one test, 45 women participating in a 10 week weight loss program were assigned to either a weight loss goal that spanned a high-low range or was a single number. At the end of the program, the women with the high-low range signed up for a second 10-week program at a slightly higher rate than the single number group. The goal type did not make a difference when it came to weight loss.

In another test, when participants were asked to eat as few M&Ms as possible while watching videos, those who set a high-low range goal said they were interested in repeating this task more than those who set a single number goal. Again, there was no difference in the amount of candies each group ate (about 5 M&Ms in 25 minutes).

People may be more interested in keeping at their overarching goal when aiming for a goal range as opposed to a single number, the authors note, because the high end meets people’s needs of a challenge, while the low end makes a goal is attainable. 

Source: Maura L. Scott and Stephen M. Nowlis. “The Effect of Goal Specificity on Consumer Goal Reengagement.” Journal of Consumer Research: October 2013.

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