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An Investigation of Time Inconsistency


  • Serdar Sayman

    () (College of Administrative Sciences and Economics, Koç University, Istanbul 34450, Turkey)

  • Ayse Öncüler

    () (ESSEC Business School, 95021 Cergy, France)


Preference between two future outcomes may change over time--a phenomenon labeled as time inconsistency. The term "time inconsistency" is usually used to refer to cases in which a larger-later outcome is preferred over a smaller-sooner one when both are delayed by some time, but then with the passage of time a preference switches to the smaller-sooner outcome. The current paper presents four empirical studies showing that time inconsistency in the other direction is also possible: A person may prefer the smaller-sooner outcome when both options are in the future, but decide to wait for the larger-later one when the smaller option becomes immediately available. We find that such "reverse time inconsistency" is more likely to be observed when the delays to and between the two outcomes are short (up to a week). We propose that reverse time inconsistency may be associated with a reversed-S shape discount function, and provide evidence that such a discount function captures part of the variation in intertemporal preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Serdar Sayman & Ayse Öncüler, 2009. "An Investigation of Time Inconsistency," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(3), pages 470-482, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:55:y:2009:i:3:p:470-482

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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Horn & Hubert János Kiss, 2017. "Which preferences associate with school performance? Lessons from a university classroom experiment," Budapest Working Papers on the Labour Market 1708, Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
    2. Schreiber, Philipp & Weber, Martin, 2016. "Time inconsistent preferences and the annuitization decision," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 37-55.
    3. Laurent Denant-Boemont & Enrico Diecidue & Olivier l’Haridon, 2017. "Patience and time consistency in collective decisions," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 20(1), pages 181-208, March.
    4. Han Bleichrodt & Yu Gao & Kirsten I. M. Rohde, 2016. "A measurement of decreasing impatience for health and money," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 52(3), pages 213-231, June.
    5. Nicolas Drouhin, 2017. "Non stationary additive utility and time consistency," Working Papers halshs-01238584, HAL.
    6. Robin Chark & Soo Chew & Songfa Zhong, 2015. "Extended present bias: a direct experimental test," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 79(1), pages 151-165, July.
    7. de-Paz, Albert & Marín-Solano, Jesús & Navas, Jorge, 2013. "A consumption–investment problem with heterogeneous discounting," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 221-232.
    8. Carlsson, Fredrik & Yang, Xiaojun, 2013. "Intertemporal Choice Shifts in Households: Do they occur and are they good?," Working Papers in Economics 569, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    9. Mohammed Abdellaoui & Olivier l'Haridon & Corina Paraschiv, 2013. "Do Couples Discount Future Consequences Less than Individuals?," Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) 201320, Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS.
    10. Sebastian Schweighofer-Kodritsch, 2015. "Time Preferences and Bargaining," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series /2015/568, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    11. Janssens, Wendy & Kramer, Berber & Swart, Lisette, 2017. "Be patient when measuring hyperbolic discounting: Stationarity, time consistency and time invariance in a field experiment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 77-90.
    12. David Bradford & Charles Courtemanche & Garth Heutel & Patrick McAlvanah & Christopher Ruhm, 2014. "Time Preferences and Consumer Behavior," NBER Working Papers 20320, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Breuer, Wolfgang & Soypak, K. Can, 2015. "Framing effects in intertemporal choice tasks and financial implications," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 152-167.
    14. Nina Anchugina, 2017. "One-Switch Discount Functions," Papers 1702.02254,
    15. Marco Casari & Davide Dragone, 2015. "Choice reversal without temptation: A dynamic experiment on time preferences," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 50(2), pages 119-140, April.
    16. Alan, Sule & Ertac, Seda, 2015. "Patience, self-control and the demand for commitment: Evidence from a large-scale field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 111-122.
    17. repec:eee:jetheo:v:172:y:2017:i:c:p:348-375 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Mohammed Abdellaoui & Han Bleichrodt & Olivier l’Haridon, 2013. "Sign-dependence in intertemporal choice," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 47(3), pages 225-253, December.
    19. Jeffrey Carpenter & Justin Garcia & J. Lum, 2011. "Dopamine receptor genes predict risk preferences, time preferences, and related economic choices," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 233-261, June.
    20. repec:eee:jeborg:v:145:y:2018:i:c:p:114-140 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Nicolas Drouhin, 2016. "Non stationary additive utility and time consistency," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-01238584, HAL.
    22. Tal Shavit, 2013. "The effect of optimism bias on time preference," Economics and Business Letters, Oviedo University Press, vol. 2(3), pages 128-133.
    23. Anke Gerbe & Kirsten I.M. Rohde, 2010. "Risk and Preference Reversals in Intertemporal Choice," Post-Print hal-00911832, HAL.
    24. Shotaro Shiba & Kazumi Shimizu, "undated". "Does Time Inconsistency Differ between Gain and Loss? An Intra-Personal Comparison Using a Non-Parametric Designed Experimen," Working Papers 1714, Waseda University, Faculty of Political Science and Economics.


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