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Naïve and capricious: Stumbling into the ring of self-control conflict

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Author Info

  • Kristian Ove R. Myrseth

    (ESMT European School of Management and Technology)

  • Conny Wollbrant

    (University of Gothenburg)

Abstract

We model self-control conflict as a stochastic struggle of an agent against a visceral influence, which impels the agent to act sub-optimally. The agent holds costly pre-commitment technology to avoid the conflict altogether and may decide whether to procure pre-commitment or to confront the visceral influence. We examine naïve expectations for the strength of the visceral influence; underestimating the visceral influence may lead the agent to exaggerate the expected utility of resisting temptation, and so mistakenly forego pre-commitment. Our analysis reveals conditions under which higher willpower – and lower visceral influence – reduces welfare. We further demonstrate that lowering risk aversion could reduce welfare. The aforementioned results call into question certain policy measures aimed at helping people improve their own behavior.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by ESMT European School of Management and Technology in its series ESMT Research Working Papers with number ESMT-11-09.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: 01 Sep 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Economic Psychology 34(1): 8–19
Handle: RePEc:esm:wpaper:esmt-11-09

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Keywords: self-control; temptation; inter-temporal choice; pre-commitment;

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  1. 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.
  2. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  3. Kfir Eliaz & Ran Spiegler, 2006. "Contracting with Diversely Naive Agents," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(3), pages 689-714.
  4. Paul Heidhues & Botond Kőszegi, 2009. "Futile Attempts at Self-Control," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 423-434, 04-05.
  5. Jack Hirshleifer, 1989. "Conflict and rent-seeking success functions: Ratio vs. difference models of relative success," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 63(2), pages 101-112, November.
  6. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Kocher, Martin G. & Martinsson, Peter & Myrseth, Kristian Ove R. & Wollbrant, Conny, 2012. "Strong, Bold, and Kind: Self-Control and Cooperation in Social Dilemmas," Discussion Papers in Economics 12706, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. 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.

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