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Think, but Not Too Much: A Dual-Process Model of Willpower and Self-Control

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  • Alos Ferrer, Carlos
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    Abstract

    Dual-process theories view decisions as the result of the interaction of two qualitatively different types of processes, automatic/impulsive and controlled/deliberative. This paper considers a model of self-control where each decision can be taken by either an automatic process or a deliberative one. In line with recent evidence from psychology, effortful self-control (willpower) is modeled as a limited resource, i.e. exercising self-control for an initial decision limits the amount of self-control available for persevering later. Automatic decisions follow a reinforcement-based process, while controlled ones are utility-maximizing. A "personal evolution" approach shows that agents might fall into self-control traps: for instance, although exercising full self-control might be efficient, decision makers might be caught in a "personal optimum" where no self-control is exercised. Reciprocally, agents might also fall prey to excessive self-control, where they waste willpower in initial decisions only to give in to temptation later. --

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    Paper provided by Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association in its series Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order with number 80019.

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    Date of creation: 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc13:80019

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    1. Tilman B�rgers & Rajiv Sarin, . "Learning Through Reinforcement and Replicator Dynamics," ELSE working papers 051, ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution.
    2. Milkman, Katherine L. & Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David I. & Madrian, Brigitte, 2011. "Using Implementation Intentions Prompts to Enhance Influenza Vaccination Rates," Scholarly Articles 8057976, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    3. Roland Benabou and Jean Tirole, 2004. "Willpower and Personal Rules," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 848-886, August.
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    6. Nick Netzer, 2008. "Evolution of Time Preferences and Attitudes Towards Risk," TWI Research Paper Series 29, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz.
    7. S. Nageeb Ali, 2011. "Learning Self-Control," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 857-893.
    8. Ozdenoren, Emre & Salant, Stephen & Silverman, Dan, 2010. "Willpower and the Optimal Control of Visceral Urges," Discussion Papers dp-10-35, Resources For the Future.
    9. Colin Camerer & Teck-Hua Ho, 1999. "Experience-weighted Attraction Learning in Normal Form Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 827-874, July.
    10. Thaler, Richard H & Shefrin, H M, 1981. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 392-406, April.
    11. Mead, N.L. & Baumeister, R.F. & Gino, F. & Schweitzer, M.E. & Ariely, D., 2009. "Too tired to tell the truth: Self-control resource depletion and dishonesty," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-3557352, Tilburg University.
    12. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2004. "Addiction and Cue-Triggered Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1558-1590, December.
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