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Temptation and productivity: A field experiment with children

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Author Info

  • Bucciol, Alessandro
  • Houser, Daniel
  • Piovesan, Marco

Abstract

Substantial evidence from psychology suggests that resisting temptation (exercising self-control) in one domain subsequently reduces one's capacity to regulate behavior in other domains. A reason is that people have limited self-regulatory resources, and self-regulatory failure occurs when these resources become overwhelmed. This paper provides evidence that this same mechanism can lead to reduced economic productivity subsequent to exposure to temptation. Using a design inspired by the classic “Marshmallow Test”, we report data from a field experiment in which children between the ages of 6 and 13 were exposed (or not) to a consumption temptation. We use these ages to take advantage of the well-established fact that the self-regulatory resources of younger children are more easily depleted than those of older children. We find that, subsequent to exposure to temptation, productivity of younger children is significantly detrimentally impacted, while that of older children remains essentially unchanged. To our knowledge, this is the first rigorous demonstration that one need not succumb to temptation in order for it to detrimentally impact one's economic productivity.

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Bibliographic Info

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

Volume (Year): 78 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 126-136

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:78:y:2011:i:1:p:126-136

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

Related research

Keywords: Willpower; Children; Temptation; Productivity; Field experiment;

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References

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  1. Emre Ozdenoren & Steve Salant & Dan Silverman, 2005. "Willpower and the Optimal Control of Visceral Urges," Levine's Working Paper Archive 784828000000000034, David K. Levine.
  2. Daniel Houser & Daniel Schunk & Joachim Winter & Erte Xiao, 2010. "Temptation and commitment in the laboratory," IEW - Working Papers 488, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2006. "Paying Not to Go to the Gym," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 694-719, June.
  4. Houser, Daniel & Schunk, Daniel & Winter, Joachim & Xiao, Erte, 2010. "Temptation and Commitment in the Laboratory," Munich Reprints in Economics 19377, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Kathleen D. Vohs & Ronald J. Faber, 2007. "Spent Resources: Self-Regulatory Resource Availability Affects Impulse Buying," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(4), pages 537-547, 01.
  6. Shiv, Baba & Fedorikhin, Alexander, 1999. " Heart and Mind in Conflict: The Interplay of Affect and Cognition in Consumer Decision Making," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 278-92, December.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Alessandro Bucciol & Daniel Houser & Marco Piovesan, 2011. "Temptation at work," Harvard Business School Working Papers 11-090, Harvard Business School.
  2. Kuhn, Michael A. & Kuhn, Peter J. & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2013. "The Importance of the Cognitive Environment for Intertemporal Choice," IZA Discussion Papers 7273, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. 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.
  4. John Ifcher & Homa Zarghamee, 2011. "Happiness and Time Preference: The Effect of Positive Affect in a Random-Assignment Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3109-29, December.

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