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A Theory of Reference Time

  • Ali al-Nowaihi


  • Sanjit Dhami


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    We consider a discounted utility model that has two components. (1) The instan- taneous utility is of the prospect theory form, thus, allowing for reference dependent outcomes. (2) The discount function embodies a ‘reference time’ to which all future outcomes are discounted back to, hence, the name, reference time theory. We allow the discount function to exhibit declining impatience, as in hyperbolic discounting models, subadditivity or both. We show that if the discount function is non-additive, then the presence of a reference time has important effects on intertemporal choices. For instance, this helps to explain apparently intransitive choices over time. We also show how several recent approaches to time discounting can be incorporated within our proposed framework; these include attribute models and models of uncertainty.

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    Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Leicester in its series Discussion Papers in Economics with number 13/26.

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    Date of creation: Nov 2013
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:lec:leecon:13/26
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics University of Leicester, University Road. Leicester. LE1 7RH. UK
    Phone: +44 (0)116 252 2887
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    1. al-Nowaihi, Ali & Dhami, Sanjit, 2009. "A value function that explains the magnitude and sign effects," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 105(3), pages 224-229, December.
    2. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:107:y:1992:i:2:p:573-97 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. " Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
    4. Ali al-Nowaihi & Sanjit Dhami, 2005. "A Note On The Loewenstein-Prelec Theory Of Intertemporal Choice," Discussion Papers in Economics 05/18, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
    5. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
    6. Ali al-Nowaihi & Sanjit Dhami, 2008. "A general theory of time discounting: The reference-time theory of intertemporal choice," Discussion Papers in Economics 08/22, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
    7. George F. Loewenstein, 1988. "Frames of Mind in Intertemporal Choice," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 34(2), pages 200-214, February.
    8. Ok, Efe A. & Masatlioglu, Yusufcan, 2007. "A theory of (relative) discounting," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 137(1), pages 214-245, November.
    9. Ali al-Nowaihi & Sanjit Dhami, 2005. "A simple derivation of Prelec’s probability weighting function," Discussion Papers in Economics 05/20, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
    10. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    11. Yoram Halevy, 2008. "Strotz Meets Allais: Diminishing Impatience and the Certainty Effect," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 1145-62, June.
    12. Marc Scholten & Daniel Read, 2006. "Discounting by Intervals: A Generalized Model of Intertemporal Choice," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(9), pages 1424-1436, September.
    13. 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.
    14. Read, Daniel, 2001. " Is Time-Discounting Hyperbolic or Subadditive?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 23(1), pages 5-32, July.
    15. Drazen Prelec, 1998. "The Probability Weighting Function," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(3), pages 497-528, May.
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