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The Globe's monthly roundup of research from business schools.

Extroverts may have all the fun in life but a new study suggests that they tend to have lower rates of personal savings than their introverted counterparts. And that could have big implications for public policy campaigns aimed at improving financial literacy and urging citizens to save for retirement.

The study was conducted by Jacob Hirsh, assistant professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga's Institute for Management and Innovation and at U of T's Rotman School of Management. It was published in the July issue of Personality and Individual Differences.

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Dr. Hirsh conducted three separate studies to examine the link between extroversion and collective savings rates. In the first he compared extroversion levels in the United States from 1966 to 1993 to personal savings rates over the same time frame. The findings showed there was an increase in levels of extroversion during this time and a corresponding decline in personal savings.

Of course correlation doesn't equal causation, Dr. Hirsh acknowledges. So he decided to test his theory further. In the second study he compared extroversion levels and savings rates across U.S. states. Again, states with higher rates of extroversion tended to have lower household savings, even when controlling for life expectancy, personal wealth and other factors that can influence savings. The third study compared extroversion and savings rates across nations. Once again the results indicated that the "more extroverted populations tend to save less for the future," Dr. Hirsh says. Canada fell right in the middle of the pack both in terms of extroversion levels and savings rates.

Previous research conducted by Dr. Hirsh indicates the reason for this may be that extroverts prefer smaller, immediate rewards over larger, delayed ones. This makes it difficult for them to overcome their desire for immediate gratification and can contribute to impulsive spending and reduced savings. Other research has shown that extroverts also tend to be less risk averse and less sensitive to potential future financial shocks, the article notes.

The findings show the important role psychology plays in financial decision-making, according to Dr. Hirsh. And they can help policy makers better tailor messages and interventions aimed at inducing people to save. "If you want to persuade an extroverted person to do something, you take a very different approach than when trying to persuade an introverted person to do something," Dr. Hirsh explains. In the case of extroverts, the message should emphasize the value and fun that can come of saving for the future.

The findings also make an argument in favour of introverts. According to Dr. Hirsh, North American culture tends to value those who are outgoing, sociable and display other character traits associated with extroversion above those associated with introversion. "Meanwhile the introverts are making smarter investment decisions," he says.

American Idol-ize your business

What can American Idol and Call of Duty teach businesses?

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A lot, according to a study by researchers at Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business. The popular reality TV show is an excellent example of how gamification – the use of video-game design principles in non-gaming contexts – can be used to improve consumer and employee engagement.

The study breaks down and defines the essential components of gamification typically used in Call of Duty and other video games. It describes how American Idol successfully adopted these principles and applied them to the traditional talent search to make it a more engaging experience for participants and audiences alike. And it argues that by using the same concepts, enterprises can turn traditional processes and outcomes into deeper, more engaging game-like experiences for their customers and employees.

"American Idol is a successful example of how a gamified talent search can motivate people – singers and numerous fans – to participate actively in the selection and marketing of the next pop star," they write. "All organizations need to motivate and engage stakeholders, whether these stakeholders are voters, students, patients, employees or consumers. Gamification is an approach to achieving this."

The study was conducted by Beedie researchers Ian McCarthy, Jan Kietzmann, Leyland Pitt and Karen Robson. It was also co-authored by Kirk Plangger, a former PhD candidate at Beedie. It was published in the July issue of Business Horizons.

Your money or your time?

Charities can have a tough time recruiting volunteers. After all, most of us are busy people with not a lot of time to spare.

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But a forthcoming study co-authored by Adam Kay, a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, suggests that using certain cues or prompts may be the key to getting prospective donors to overcome their aversion to volunteering time. "People have a default disinclination to giving time because time is such a scarce commodity," says Mr. Kay. It's just easier to give cash.

In four lab experiments Mr. Kay and his co-authors show that the key to getting donors to overcome this emotional roadblock is their moral identity – their personal value system – and how strongly defined it is. In the experiments, the researchers used certain cues or prompts to enhance participants' moral identity. For example, in one study some of the participants were asked to write a paragraph about themselves using words such as "kindness," "compassion" or "hardworking." In another experiment some of the participants were asked to watch a slide show that included inspirational quotations and images of moral leaders such as Gandhi.

Then they were asked if they would be willing to give time, money or neither to a hypothetical charity. Those who had completed the writing exercise or had watched the slide show were more inclined to volunteer their time. This was true even when they were told that they would be volunteering at a hospital emptying bedpans. The reason they gave was that donating time allowed them to express who they really were and made them feel more connected to the charitable group.

The findings have important implications for charitable groups, says Mr. Kay. If they want donors to volunteer time, they need to find ways to enhance their moral identities by using similar exercises as those used in the experiments. The study also found that giving time over money left donors feeling happier and more fulfilled, regardless of their moral identity, Mr. Kay says.

The upshot is that charities need to figure out what type of person they are targeting in order to tailor their messages and prompts accordingly, he says. The study is to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Rosanna Tamburri can reached at

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