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.
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.
|Date of creation:||Jan 2002|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Phone: 44 - 20 - 7183 8801
Fax: 44 - 20 - 7183 8820
|Order Information:|| Email: |
References listed on IDEAS
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 & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988.
"A Theory of Rational Addiction,"
Journal of Political Economy,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
- 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.
- Klaus Wertenbroch, 1998. "Consumption Self-Control by Rationing Purchase Quantities of Virtue and Vice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 17(4), pages 317-337.
- Carrillo, Juan D & Mariotti, Thomas, 2000. "Strategic Ignorance as a Self-Disciplining Device," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 529-44, July.
- 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, . "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.
- 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.
- Athanasios Orphanides & David Zervos, 1992.
"Rational addiction with learning and regret,"
Finance and Economics Discussion Series
216, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
- Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 2001. "Theories of Fairness and Reciprocity," Discussion Papers in Economics 14, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
- Battaglini, Marco & Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2002.
"Self Control in Peer Groups,"
CEPR Discussion Papers
3149, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Battaglini, Marco & Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2003. "Self-Control in Peer Groups," IDEI Working Papers 189, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
- Benabou, R. & Battaglini, M., 2001. "Self-Control in peer Groups," Papers 217, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
- 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 237-41, 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.
- Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Self-Confidence And Personal Motivation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 871-915, August.
- Matthew Rabin & Ted O'Donoghue, 1999.
"Doing It Now or Later,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 103-124, March.
- Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 1996. "Doing It Now or Later," Discussion Papers 1172, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
- Ted O'Donoghue and Matthew Rabin ., 1997. "Doing It Now or Later," Economics Working Papers 97-253, University of California at Berkeley.
- 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.
- H. M. Shefrin & Richard Thaler, 1977.
"An Economic Theory of Self-Control,"
NBER Working Papers
0208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- 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.
- Richard Thaler, 1985.
"Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice,"
INFORMS, vol. 4(3), pages 199-214.
- Laibson, David, 1997.
"Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
- Benabou, R. & Tirole, J., 2000.
"Self-Confidence and Social Interactions,"
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.
- Roland Babou & 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..
- R. Benabou & J. Tirole, 1999. "Self-Confidence and Social Interactions," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 00s2, Economics Department, Princeton University.
- 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, 1978. "Egonomics, or the Art of Self-Management," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 290-94, May.
- 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.
- Fudenberg, Drew & Kreps, David M, 1987. "Reputation in the Simultaneous Play of Multiple Opponents," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(4), pages 541-68, October.
- 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.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3143. 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: ()
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.