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A theory of self-control and naïveté: The blights of willpower and blessings of temptation

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  • Myrseth, Kristian Ove R.
  • Wollbrant, Conny E.

Abstract

We model self-control conflict as an agent’s stochastic struggle against a visceral influence that 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; naïve expectations lead the agent to exaggerate the expected utility of resisting temptation and so mistakenly forego pre-commitment. Contrary to accepted wisdom, our analysis reveals conditions under which higher willpower—and lower visceral influence—reduces welfare. Our analysis, therefore, calls into question policy measures that influence willpower and visceral influences.

Suggested Citation

  • Myrseth, Kristian Ove R. & Wollbrant, Conny E., 2013. "A theory of self-control and naïveté: The blights of willpower and blessings of temptation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 8-19.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:34:y:2013:i:c:p:8-19
    DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2012.11.003
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Martin G. Kocher & Peter Martinsson & Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Conny E. Wollbrant, 2017. "Strong, bold, and kind: self-control and cooperation in social dilemmas," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 20(1), pages 44-69, March.
    2. Martinsson, Peter & Myrseth, Kristian Ove R. & Wollbrant, Conny, 2014. "Social dilemmas: When self-control benefits cooperation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 213-236.
    3. Kristian Ove R. Myrseth & Gerhard Riener & Conny Wollbrant, 2013. "Tangible temptation in the social dilemma: Cash, cooperation, and self-control," ESMT Research Working Papers ESMT-13-04, ESMT European School of Management and Technology.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Self-control; Temptation; Inter-temporal choice; Pre-commitment;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D69 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Other
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General

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