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On the causes and consequences of hedonic adaptation


  • Perez-Truglia, Ricardo


We provide a simple evolutionary explanation for the emergence of hedonic adaptation. The model’s key assumption is that, apart from guiding long-term behavior, some sensations fulfill warning and defense roles (e.g., pain). Contrary to the alternative evolutionary explanations for hedonic adaptation (Robson, 2002; Rayo and Becker, 2007), our theory can explain why some sensations are adaptive, while others (with warning/defense roles) are not adaptive at all. Finally, we show that differential adaptation has important welfare and policy implications.

Suggested Citation

  • Perez-Truglia, Ricardo, 2012. "On the causes and consequences of hedonic adaptation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 1182-1192.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:33:y:2012:i:6:p:1182-1192 DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2012.08.004

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 2003. "Projection Bias in Predicting Future Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1209-1248.
    2. Loewenstein, George & Ubel, Peter A., 2008. "Hedonic adaptation and the role of decision and experience utility in public policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1795-1810, August.
    3. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2008. "How are preferences revealed?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1787-1794, August.
    4. Arthur J. Robson, 2002. "Evolution and Human Nature," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 89-106, Spring.
    5. Bottan, Nicolas Luis & Perez Truglia, Ricardo, 2011. "Deconstructing the hedonic treadmill: Is happiness autoregressive?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 224-236, May.
    6. Botond Kőszegi & Matthew Rabin, 2006. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1133-1165.
    7. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
    8. Smith, Trenton G. & Tasnadi, Attila, 2007. "A theory of natural addiction," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 316-344, May.
    9. Arthur J. Robson, 2001. "The Biological Basis of Economic Behavior," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(1), pages 11-33, March.
    10. David Laibson, 2001. "A Cue-Theory of Consumption," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 81-119.
    11. Larry Samuelson, 2004. "Information-Based Relative Consumption Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 93-118, January.
    12. Arthur J. Robson, 2001. "Why Would Nature Give Individuals Utility Functions?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(4), pages 900-929, August.
    13. Ernst Fehr & Antonio Rangel, 2011. "Neuroeconomic Foundations of Economic Choice--Recent Advances," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 3-30, Fall.
    14. Luis Rayo & Gary S. Becker, 2007. "Evolutionary Efficiency and Happiness," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 302-337.
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    Cited by:

    1. Schöb, Ronnie & Aronsson, Thomas, 2014. "Climate Change and Psychological Adaptation: A Behavioral Environmental Economics Approach," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100287, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    2. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2012. "Resilience to Economic Shocks and the Long Reach of Childhood Bullying," CEP Discussion Papers dp1173, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    3. repec:eee:joepsy:v:61:y:2017:i:c:p:29-38 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Pablo Gluzmann, 2013. "Bienestar subjetivo y crecimiento económico: analizando la paradoja del crecimiento infeliz en la Encuesta Mundial Gallup," Económica, Departamento de Economía, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, vol. 59, pages 231-258, January-D.
    5. Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2014. "What childhood characteristics predict psychological resilience to economic shocks in adulthood?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 84-101.

    More about this item


    Hedonic adaptation; Evolution; Experienced and decision utility;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General


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