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Temptation and commitment in the laboratory

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  • Houser, Daniel
  • Schunk, Daniel
  • Winter, Joachim
  • Xiao, Erte

Abstract

We report data from a novel laboratory experiment on economic decisions under persistent temptations. This type of temptation is ubiquitous, as it refers to any temptation that is present until one either gives in or makes a costly commitment decision to have it removed. Subjects in our experiment are repeatedly offered an option with instantaneous benefit that also entails a substantial reduction to overall earnings. We show that this option is tempting in the sense that a substantial fraction of our subjects incur pecuniary costs to eliminate the choice, and thus commit not to choose this alternative. We find that commitment and giving in to temptation generally occur at the first opportunity, though a non-negligible fraction of subjects delay either making the commitment decision or giving in to temptation. This delay is consistent with the costs of self-control increasing with its use.

Suggested Citation

  • Houser, Daniel & Schunk, Daniel & Winter, Joachim & Xiao, Erte, 2018. "Temptation and commitment in the laboratory," Munich Reprints in Economics 62834, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:62834
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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