NWO Veni grant for ‘consumer self-control’ research

Dr Dan Schley from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) has been awarded a prestigious Veni grant by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). He plans to use the grant to further research overconsuming, and to develop a new stream of self-control research. The award not only validates the scientific value of Dr Schley’s research ideas, but also its relevance.

NWO awarded Veni grants, which run up to €250,000, to 154 researchers who have recently obtained their doctorate. The grant provides highly promising young scientists with the opportunity to further elaborate their own ideas during a period of three years.

Overspending and self-control

“I’m very excited for this grant because it will afford me the opportunity to study a topic I have been thinking about for several years,” says Dr Schley. He added that peoples’ failure to maintain self-control, such as overeating and overspending, is a difficult problem to solve.

Dr Schley explained that most approaches, such as savings plans, require consumers to adopt and maintain a regulatory programme. But the maintenance of such programmes requires self-control, leading to a ‘Catch 22’, which means one requirement is dependent on another which in turn is dependent on the first.

Numerical aggregation system

Dr Schley said he plans to use the Veni grant to develop a new stream of self-control research. He believes that one reason people overconsume is because their minds are automatically tallying the amount they had previously consumed – a running total of sorts.

"For example, when deciding to buy a new pair of shoes, a consumer might pull from their memory roughly how much they had spent that month, instead of explicitly calculating. This ability to have a feeling about one’s consumption without calculation I term the Numerical Aggregation System (NAS) and I believe that the NAS leads to underestimation,” he explained. Schley added that this is why we tend to be surprised by how high our credit card bill is, and how many calories we have eaten more often than how low or few afterwards, respectively.

Reducing overconsumption

Dr Schley will investigate the NAS, how it works, and what can be done to improve it. “If one reason people overconsume and lose self-control is because they underestimate their own consumption, then if we can figure out how to recalibrate the NAS, we can potentially reduce overconsumption without having to rely on individuals’ own self-control,” he said.

Dr Schley will be working on this project with Professor Ellen Peter from The Ohio State University and Dr Adam Greenberg from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr Dan Schley

Dr Dan Schley’s diverse training and interests sit at the confluence of economics, psychology, and marketing. He first studied economics at the University of California, San Diego. He then pursued his interests in studying the psychology of human judgment and decision-making. Schley attended The Ohio State University where he obtained his MA and PhD in quantitative psychology, which is the psychology of measurement and statistics.

Altogether, much of Dr Schley’s work is interdisciplinary in nature. His general research interests revolve around the integration of psychology and economics within marketing. He studies the aetiologies of individuals' judgments and decision-making (JDM), primarily with regard to how the mind processes numeric information. Although his primary research goal involves understanding the theoretical foundations of judgments and choice, he generally researches within paradigms that have implications for important real-world consumer decisions.

More information

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