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A Theory of Routines as Mindsavers

Listed author(s):
  • Bernard Sinclair-Desgagné
  • Antoine Soubeyran

A large number of our daily activities are routinized in the sense that they are done without explicit deliberation. We provide a first model that captures this phenomenon. In a dynamic setting routines arise endogenously from the necessity to economize on time and attention. Routines are shown to be ubiquitous, not only in trivial tasks that bear no direct payoff, but also in tasks where stakes are high and where deliberation and delivery are strictly complementary with respect to output. In jobs that comprise several tasks, the timing of routinization on one task is seen to depend on this task's relative contribution to output. In jobs that require different sorts of know-hows, routinization is linked to their total number. The relationship between routines and some well-known features of economic behavior, such as inertia and resistance to change, unreadiness towards increased rewards, and satisficing under time pressure is also briefly examined. Un grand nombre de nos activités quotidiennes sont routinisées, au sens où nous les pratiquons sans trop y penser. Cet article propose un premier modèle de ce phénomène. Avec le temps, des routines apparaissent dû à la nécessité d'économiser effort et attention. On trouve des routines partout, non seulement dans les tâches dites triviales parce qu'elles ne rapportent rien en soi,0501s aussi dans celles dites nobles où les enjeux sont grands. Lorsqu'un travail comprend plusieurs tâches, une tâche donnée est routinisée plus tôt quand sa contribution est relativement plus faible. Lorsqu'un travail comprend une seule tâche0501s requiert différents savoir-faire, le moment où cette tâche devient routine est lié au nombre total de savoir-faire. On étudie finalement le lien entre les routines et certains comportements économiques bien connus, comme l'inertie et la résistance au changement, la non-réponse aux incitations, et la tendance à sous-optimiser quand le temps presse.

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Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 2000s-52.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 01 Nov 2000
Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2000s-52
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  1. Frey, Bruno S. & Eichenberger, Reiner, 1994. "Economic incentives transform psychological anomalies," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 215-234, March.
  2. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1994. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 299-322 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Smith, Vernon L & Walker, James M, 1993. "Monetary Rewards and Decision Cost in Experimental Economics," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 31(2), pages 245-261, April.
  4. Jovanovic, Boyan & Nyarko, Yaw, 1996. "Learning by Doing and the Choice of Technology," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1299-1310, November.
  5. Simon, Herbert A, 1978. "Rationality as Process and as Product of Thought," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 1-16, May.
  6. John Conlisk, 1996. "Why Bounded Rationality?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 669-700, June.
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