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

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Author Info

  • Myrseth, Kristian Ove R.

    ()
    (ESMT European School of Management and Technology)

  • Wollbrant, Conny

    ()
    (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)

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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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2077/26654
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers in Economics with number 515.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: 01 Sep 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:gunwpe:0515

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Postal: Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, Box 640, SE 405 30 GÖTEBORG, Sweden
Phone: 031-773 10 00
Web page: http://www.handels.gu.se/econ/
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Keywords: self-control; temptation; inter-temporal choice; pre-commitment;

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References

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  1. Kfir Eliaz & Ran Spiegler, 2004. "Contracting with Diversely Naïve Agents," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000530, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
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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," Working Papers in Economics 523, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 02 Apr 2013.
  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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