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Discounting Behavior and the Magnitude Effect


  • Steffen Andersen

    () (Copenhagen Business School)

  • Glenn W. Harrison

    () (Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University)

  • Morten Lau

    () (Durham Business School)

  • Elisabet E. Rutstroem

    () (Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University)


We evaluate the claim that individuals exhibit a magnitude effect in their discounting behavior, which is said to occur when higher discount rates are inferred from choices made with lower principals, all else being equal. If the effect is robust, as claimed, we should be able to see it using procedures that are more familiar to economists. Using data collected from a representative sample of adult Danes, we find statistically significant evidence of a small magnitude effect, at levels that are much smaller than is typically claimed. This evidence only surfaces if one carefully controls for unobserved individual heterogeneity in the population. And it disappears completely if we include discounting choices in which both options have some time delay.

Suggested Citation

  • Steffen Andersen & Glenn W. Harrison & Morten Lau & Elisabet E. Rutstroem, 2011. "Discounting Behavior and the Magnitude Effect," Working Papers 2011_02, Durham University Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:dur:durham:2011_02

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lydia Lawless & Andreas Drichoutis & Rodolfo Nayga, 2013. "Time preferences and health behaviour: a review," Agricultural and Food Economics, Springer;Italian Society of Agricultural Economics (SIDEA), vol. 1(1), pages 1-19, December.
    2. Holden, Stein, 2014. "Explaining anomalies in intertemporal choice: A mental zooming theory," CLTS Working Papers 2/14, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Centre for Land Tenure Studies.
    3. Ubfal, Diego, 2016. "How general are time preferences? Eliciting good-specific discount rates," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 150-170.
    4. Andreas C. Drichoutis & Rodolfo M. Nayga, Jr., 2015. "Do Risk and Time Preferences Have Biological Roots?," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 235-256, July.

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