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Field and online experiments on self-control

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Author Info

  • Burger, Nicholas
  • Charness, Gary
  • Lynham, John

Abstract

Self-control problems have recently received considerable attention from economic theorists. We conducted two studies involving behavioral interventions expected to affect performance, providing some of the first experimental data in this area. In the first we investigate whether evenly spaced interim deadlines lead to higher completion rates for a lengthy task, where procrastination could be a factor. We found that these interim deadlines in fact led to lower completion rates in our set-up; we also found no evidence in the aggregate data (although there was considerable heterogeneity) of an increasing profile of the number of hours spent at the task over time, suggesting that the degree of present-bias in the participant population is not that high. In the second, we examine how willpower depletion affects behavior. Our second study isolates the effect of direct willpower depletion on the first day of a two-day period, thus exploring procrastination over a shorter time horizon. We found that depleting willpower did indeed lead to less work (and poorer quality) on the first day, but that this intervention surprisingly led to a higher completion rate overall. Our results help to inform ongoing efforts to understand and model self-control, willpower, and commitment mechanisms.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 77 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (March)
Pages: 393-404

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:77:y:2011:i:3:p:393-404

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jebo

Related research

Keywords: Experiment Behavioral interventions Procrastination Willpower;

References

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  1. Charness, Gary B & Gneezy, Uri, 2008. "Incentives to Exercise," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt3tc3j5x7, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  2. Meier, Stephan & Sprenger, Charles, 2009. "Present-Biased Preferences and Credit Card Borrowing," IZA Discussion Papers 4198, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Nava Ashraf & Dean S. Karlan & Wesley Yin, 2005. "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines," Working Papers 917, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  4. Bisin, Alberto & Hyndman, Kyle, 2009. "Procrastination, self-imposed deadlines and other commitment devices," MPRA Paper 16235, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Ted O'Donoghue and Matthew Rabin ., 1997. "Doing It Now or Later," Economics Working Papers 97-253, University of California at Berkeley.
  6. Fischer, Carolyn, 1999. "Read This Paper Later: Procrastination with Time-Consistent Preferences," Discussion Papers dp-99-19, Resources For the Future.
  7. Benabou, R. & Tirole, J., 2001. "Willpower and Personal Rules," Papers 216, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  8. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  9. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
  11. Malmendier, Ulrike M. & Della Vigna, Stefano, 2003. "Contract Design and Self Control: Theory and Evidence," Research Papers 1801, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  12. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 2004. "A Dual Self Model of Impulse Control," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2049, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  13. Shapiro, Jesse M., 2005. "Is there a daily discount rate? Evidence from the food stamp nutrition cycle," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 303-325, February.
  14. H. M. Shefrin & Richard Thaler, 1977. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 0208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Philip Oreopoulos & Daniel Lang & Joshua Angrist, 2009. "Incentives and Services for College Achievement: Evidence from a Randomized Trial," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 136-63, January.
  16. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
  17. Nicholas Burger & John Lynham, 2010. "Betting on weight loss … and losing: personal gambles as commitment mechanisms," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(12), pages 1161-1166.
  18. Klaus Wertenbroch, 1998. "Consumption Self-Control by Rationing Purchase Quantities of Virtue and Vice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 17(4), pages 317-337.
  19. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
  20. Anton Suvorov & Jeroen van de Ven, 2008. "Goal Setting as a Self-Regulation Mechanism," Working Papers w0122, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  21. Joshua Angrist & Victor Lavy, 2009. "The Effects of High Stakes High School Achievement Awards: Evidence from a Randomized Trial," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1384-1414, September.
  22. Nicholas Burger & Gary Charness & John Lynham, 2008. "Three Field Experiments on Procrastination and Willpower," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002399, David K. Levine.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Michael A. Kuhn & Peter Kuhn & Marie Claire Villeval, 2013. "The Importance of the Cognitive Environment for Intertemporal Choice," Working Papers 1316, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  2. Leonhard K. Lades, 2012. "Impulsive Consumption and Reflexive Thought: Nudging Ethical Consumer Behavior," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2012-03, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
  3. Buechel, Berno & Mechtenberg, Lydia & Petersen, Julia, 2014. "Peer Effects and Students’ Self-Control," MPRA Paper 53658, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Michael A. Kuhn & Peter Kuhn & Marie Claire Villeval, 2014. "Self Control and Intertemporal Choice: Evidence from Glucose and Depletion Interventions," Post-Print halshs-00954539, HAL.
  5. Alberto Bisin & Kyle Hyndman, 2014. "Present-Bias, Procrastination and Deadlines in a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 19874, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Myrseth, Kristian Ove R. & Riener, Gerhard & Wollbrant, Conny, 2013. "Tangible Temptation in the Social Dilemma: Cash, cooperation, and self-control," Working Papers in Economics 567, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  7. Peter Martinsson & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny Wollbrant, 2012. "Reconciling pro-social vs. selfish behavior: On the role of self-control," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(3), pages 304-315, May.
  8. Philip Babcock & Kelly Bedard & Gary Charness & John Hartman & Heather Royer, 2011. "Letting Down the Team? Evidence of Social Effects of Team Incentives," NBER Working Papers 16687, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. de Haan, Thomas & van Veldhuizen, Roel, 2013. "Willpower depletion and framing effects," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Behavior SP II 2013-206, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  10. Charness, Gary & Gneezy, Uri & Kuhn, Michael A., 2013. "Experimental methods: Extra-laboratory experiments-extending the reach of experimental economics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 93-100.
  11. Babcock, Philip & Bedard, Kelly & Charness, Gary & Hartman, John & Royer, Heather, 2012. "Letting Down the Team? Social Effects of Team Incentives," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt93n646db, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.

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