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Highbrow Films Gather Dust: A Study of Dynamic Inconsistency and Online DVD Rentals

  • Katherine L. Milkman

    ()

    (Harvard Business School)

  • Todd Rogers

    ()

    (Harvard Business School)

  • Max H. Bazerman

    ()

    (Harvard Business School, Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit)

We report on a field study demonstrating systematic differences between the preferences people anticipate they will have over a series of options in the future and their subsequent revealed preferences over those options. Using a novel panel data set, we analyze the film rental and return patterns of a sample of online DVD rental customers over a period of four months. We predict and find that people are more likely to rent DVDs in one order and return them in the reverse order when should DVDs (e.g., documentaries) are rented before want DVDs (e.g., action films). This effect is sizeable in magnitude, with a 2% increase in the probability of a reversal in preferences (from a baseline rate of 12%) ensuing if the first of two sequentially rented movies has more should and fewer want characteristics than the second film. Similarly, we also predict and find that should DVDs are held significantly longer than want DVDs within-customer. Finally, we find that as the same customers gain more experience with online DVD rentals, their "dynamic inconsistency" is attenuated. We interpret our results as evidence that myopia has a meaningful impact on decisions in the field and that people learn about their myopia with experience, allowing them to curb its influence.

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File URL: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/07-099.pdf
File Function: Revised version, 2008
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Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 07-099.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2007
Date of revision: Apr 2008
Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:07-099
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Web page: http://www.hbs.edu/

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  1. Dean Karlan & Nava Ashaf & Wesley Yin, 2004. "Tying odysseus to the mast: Evidence from a commitment savings product in the philippines," Natural Field Experiments 00206, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Thaler, Richard, 1981. "Some empirical evidence on dynamic inconsistency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 201-207.
  3. 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.
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  11. Klaus Wertenbroch, 1998. "Consumption Self-Control by Rationing Purchase Quantities of Virtue and Vice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 17(4), pages 317-337.
  12. Rogers, Todd & Bazerman, Max H., 2008. "Future lock-in: Future implementation increases selection of 'should' choices," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 106(1), pages 1-20, May.
  13. George-Marios Angeletos, 2001. "The Hyberbolic Consumption Model: Calibration, Simulation, and Empirical Evaluation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 47-68, Summer.
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