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The Evolution of Decision and Experienced Utilities

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Abstract

Psychologists report that people make choices on the basis of "decision utilities" that routinely overestimate the "experienced utility" consequences of these choices. This paper argues that this dichotomy between decision and experienced utilities may be the solution to an evolutionary design problem. We examine a setting in which evolution designs agents with utility functions that must mediate intertemporal choices, and in which there is an incentive to condition current utilities on the agent's previous experience. Anticipating future utility adjustments can distort intertemporal incentives, a conflict that is attenuated by separating decision and experienced utilities.

Suggested Citation

  • Arthur Robson & Larry Samuelson, 2008. "The Evolution of Decision and Experienced Utilities," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1678, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Feb 2010.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1678
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    File URL: http://cowles.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/pub/d16/d1678.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Michael Gurven & Hillard Kaplan, 2007. "Longevity Among Hunter- Gatherers: A Cross-Cultural Examination," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 33(2), pages 321-365.
    2. Arthur J. Robson & Balazs Szentes, 2008. "Evolution of Time Preference by Natural Selection: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 1178-1188, June.
    3. Steffen Andersen & Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2008. "Eliciting Risk and Time Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(3), pages 583-618, May.
    4. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
    5. Lawrance, Emily C, 1991. "Poverty and the Rate of Time Preference: Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(1), pages 54-77, February.
    6. Thaler, Richard, 1981. "Some empirical evidence on dynamic inconsistency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 201-207.
    7. Curry, Philip A., 2001. "Decision Making under Uncertainty and the Evolution of Interdependent Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 98(2), pages 357-369, June.
    8. Robson, Arthur J., 1996. "A Biological Basis for Expected and Non-expected Utility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 397-424, February.
    9. Larry Samuelson & Arthur J. Robson, 2007. "The Evolution of Intertemporal Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 496-500, May.
    10. Hansson, Ingemar & Stuart, Charles, 1990. "Malthusian Selection of Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 529-544, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Heutel, Garth, 2010. "Optimal Policy Instruments for Externality-Producing Durable Goods under Time Inconsistency," UNCG Economics Working Papers 10-5, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics.
    2. Antoine Bommier, 2008. "Rational Impatience ?," Working Papers hal-00441880, HAL.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Discounting; Evolution; Present bias; Time preference;

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics

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