Milkman, Katherine L., John Beshears, James J. Choi, David Laibson, and Brigitte C. Madrian. "Following through on Good Intentions: The Power of Planning Prompts." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP12-024, May 2012.
We study whether prompts to form and recall a plan can increase individuals’ responsiveness to reminders to make and attend beneficial appointments. At four companies, all employees due for a colonoscopy were randomly assigned to receive either a control mailing or a treatment mailing. The mailings were identical except that the control mailing included a blank sticky note while the treatment mailing included a sticky note that prompted the recipient to write down the appointment date for a colonoscopy and the name of the doctor who would conduct the procedure. During the seven-month follow-up period, 7.2% of treatment employees received a colonoscopy compared to 6.2% of control employees, a statistically significant difference that is roughly equal to the variation in compliance associated with a 10 percent increase in the fraction of the procedure’s cost covered by insurance. The treatment effect was largest for demographic groups judged to be at the highest risk of failing to receive a colonoscopy due to forgetfulness.