IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Commitment Devices


  • Gharad Bryan
  • Dean Karlan
  • Scott Nelson

    () (Department of Economics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520)


We review the recent evidence on commitment devices and discuss how this evidence relates to theoretical questions about the demand for, and effectiveness of, commitment. Several important distinctions emerge. First, we distinguish between what we call hard and soft commitments and identify how soft commitments, in particular, can help with various dilemmas, both in explaining empirical behavior and in designing effective commitment devices. Second, we highlight the importance of certain modeling assumptions in predicting when commitment devices will be demanded and examine the laboratory and field evidence on the demand for commitment devices. Third, we present the evidence on both informal and formal commitment devices, and we conclude with a discussion of policy implications, including sin taxes, consumer protection, and commitment device design.

Suggested Citation

  • Gharad Bryan & Dean Karlan & Scott Nelson, 2010. "Commitment Devices," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 671-698, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:anr:reveco:v:2:y:2010:p:671-698

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text downloads are only available to subscribers. Visit the abstract page for more information.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ruben Enikolopov & Maria Petrova & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2011. "Media and Political Persuasion: Evidence from Russia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3253-3285, December.
    2. Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2002. "The Political Economy of Government Responsiveness: Theory and Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1415-1451.
    3. Stefano DellaVigna & Ethan Kaplan, 2007. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1187-1234.
    4. Roland G. Fryer & Matthew O. Jackson, 2002. "Categorical Cognition: A Psychological Model of Categories and Identification in Decision Making," Microeconomics 0211002, EconWPA.
    5. Thomas Eisensee & David Strömberg, 2007. "News Droughts, News Floods, and U. S. Disaster Relief," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 693-728.
    6. Peter M. DeMarzo & Dimitri Vayanos & Jeffrey Zwiebel, 2003. "Persuasion Bias, Social Influence, and Unidimensional Opinions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 909-968.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    commitment contracts; present-biased preferences; self-control; temptation models; hyperbolic preferences;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D87 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Neuroeconomics


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:anr:reveco:v:2:y:2010:p:671-698. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ( General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.