Willpower and Personal Rules
This Paper studies the internal commitment mechanisms or ‘personal rules’ (diets, exercise regimens, resolutions, moral or religious precepts, etc.) through which people seek to achieve self-control. Our theory is based on the idea of self-reputation over one’s willpower, which potentially transforms lapses in a personal rule into precedents that undermine future self-restraint. The foundation for such effects, in turn, is the imperfect recall of past motives and feelings, which leads people to draw inferences from their own past actions. We thus model the behaviour of individuals who are unsure of their willpower (ability to delay ratification) in certain states of the world, and show how self-control can be sustained by the fear of creating damaging precedents. We also show, however, that people will sometimes adopt excessively rigid rules that result in compulsive behaviours such as miserliness, workaholism, or anorexia. These represent costly forms of self-signaling where the individual is so afraid of appearing weak to himself that every decision becomes a test of his willpower, even when self-restraint is not even desirable ex-ante. Such common behaviours which appear to display a ‘salience of the future’ are thus not only consistent, but actually generated by (a concern over) present-oriented preferences. Finally, we analyse the cognitive underpinnings of self-regulation. We first show how equilibrium behaviour is shaped by the extent to which the individual’s self-monitoring is subject to opportunistic distortions of memory or attribution. We then study how recall and inference processes can themselves be endogenously determined through the use of self-sustaining cognitive rules and resolutions.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Becker, Gary S & Grossman, Michael & Murphy, Kevin M, 1991.
"Rational Addiction and the Effect of Price on Consumption,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 237-241, May.
- Gary S.Grossman Becker & Michael Murphy & Kevin M., 1991. "Rational Addiction and the Effect of Price on Consumption," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 68, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
- Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1986.
"A Theory of Rational Addiction,"
University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State
41, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
- Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 1996.
"Doing It Now or Later,"
1172, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
- O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 1997. "Doing It Now or Later," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt7t44m5b0, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
- Ted O'Donoghue and Matthew Rabin ., 1997. "Doing It Now or Later," Economics Working Papers 97-253, University of California at Berkeley.
- Henry S. Farber, 2003. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply Of New York Cab Drivers," Working Papers 110, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
- Schelling, Thomas C, 1978. "Egonomics, or the Art of Self-Management," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 290-294, May.
- Orphanides, Athanasios & Zervos, David, 1995.
"Rational Addiction with Learning and Regret,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 739-758, August.
- H. M. Shefrin & Richard Thaler, 1977.
"An Economic Theory of Self-Control,"
NBER Working Papers
0208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Klaus Wertenbroch, 1998. "Consumption Self-Control by Rationing Purchase Quantities of Virtue and Vice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 17(4), pages 317-337.
- Laibson, David I., 1997.
"Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting,"
4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- R. Benabou & J. Tirole, 1999.
"Self-Confidence and Social Interactions,"
Princeton Economic Theory Papers
00s2, Economics Department, Princeton University.
- Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 1999. "Self-Confidence And Social Interactions," Working Papers 151, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics.
- Benabou, R. & Tirole, J., 2000. "Self-Confidence and Social Interactions," Papers 210, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
- Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2000. "Self-Confidence and Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 7585, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Richard Thaler, 1985.
"Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice,"
INFORMS, vol. 4(3), pages 199-214.
- Loewenstein, George, 1996. "Out of Control: Visceral Influences on Behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 272-292, March.
- Schelling, Thomas C, 1984. "Self-Command in Practice, in Policy, and in a Theory of Rational Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 1-11, May.
- repec:pri:indrel:dsp01wd375w30d is not listed on IDEAS
- Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 164-187, February.
- repec:pri:cepsud:92farber is not listed on IDEAS
- Ernst Fehr & Klaus Schmidt, 2000.
"Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity – Evidence and Economic Applications,"
CESifo Working Paper Series
403, CESifo Group Munich.
- Ernst Fehr & Klaus M. Schmidt, "undated". "Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity - Evidence and Economic Applications," IEW - Working Papers 075, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
- Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2001. "Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity - Evidence and Economic Applications," CEPR Discussion Papers 2703, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2003.
"Time-Inconsistent Preferences in Adam Smith and David Hume,"
History of Political Economy,
Duke University Press, vol. 35(2), pages 241-268, Summer.
- Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, 2001. "Time Inconsistent Preferences in Adam Smith and David Hume," Working Papers 2001-19, Brown University, Department of Economics.
- Battaglini, Marco & Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2003.
"Self-Control in Peer Groups,"
IDEI Working Papers
189, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
- Rabin, Matthew, 1995.
"Moral Preferences, Moral Constraints, and Self-Serving Biases,"
Department of Economics, Working Paper Series
qt97r6t5vf, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
- Matthew Rabin., 1995. "Moral Preferences, Moral Constraints, and Self-Serving Biases," Economics Working Papers 95-241, University of California at Berkeley.
- Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Self-Confidence and Personal Motivation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 871-915.
- Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2001. "Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity," Discussion Papers in Economics 14, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
- Drew Fudenberg & David M. Kreps, 1987. "Reputation in the Simultaneous Play of Multiple Opponents," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(4), pages 541-568.
- Juan D. Carrillo & Thomas Mariotti, 2000. "Strategic Ignorance as a Self-Disciplining Device," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(3), pages 529-544.
- Shlomo Benartzi & Richard Thaler, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
- Henry S. Farber, 2003. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply of New York City Cab Drivers," Working Papers 852, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
- Henry Farber, 2003. "Is Tomorrow Another Day? The Labor Supply of New York Cab Drivers," NBER Working Papers 9706, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- B. Douglas Bernheim & Michael D. Whinston, 1990. "Multimarket Contact and Collusive Behavior," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(1), pages 1-26, Spring.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:112:y:2004:i:4:p:848-886. 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: (Journals Division)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.