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Working Over Time: Dynamic Inconsistency in Real Effort Tasks


  • Ned Augenblick
  • Muriel Niederle
  • Charles Sprenger


Experimental tests of dynamically inconsistent time preferences have largely relied on choices over time-dated monetary rewards. Several recent studies have failed to find the standard patterns of time inconsistency. However, such monetary studies contain often discussed confounds. In this paper, we sidestep these confounds and investigate choices over consumption (real effort) in a longitudinal experiment. We pair those effort choices with a companion monetary discounting study. We confirm very limited time inconsistency in monetary choices. However, subjects show considerably more present bias in effort. Furthermore, present bias in the allocation of work has predictive power for demand of a meaningfully binding commitment device. Therefore our findings validate a key implication of models of dynamic inconsistency, with corresponding policy implications.

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  • Ned Augenblick & Muriel Niederle & Charles Sprenger, 2013. "Working Over Time: Dynamic Inconsistency in Real Effort Tasks," NBER Working Papers 18734, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18734
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. James Andreoni & Michael A. Kuhn & Charles Sprenger, 2013. "On Measuring Time Preferences," NBER Working Papers 19392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Keith M. Marzilli Ericson, 2014. "On the Interaction of Memory and Procrastination: Implications for Reminders," NBER Working Papers 20381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Andreoni, James & Kuhn, Michael A. & Sprenger, Charles, 2015. "Measuring time preferences: A comparison of experimental methods," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 451-464.
    4. Alex Imas & Michael A. Kuhn & Vera Mironova, 2015. "A History of Violence: Field Evidence on Trauma, Discounting and Present Bias," CESifo Working Paper Series 5338, CESifo Group Munich.
    5. Dohmen, Thomas, 2014. "Behavioral labor economics: Advances and future directions," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 71-85.
    6. Cockx, Bart & Ghirelli, Corinna & Van der Linden, Bruno, 2014. "Is it socially efficient to impose job search requirements on unemployed benefit claimants with hyperbolic preferences?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 80-95.
    7. Alex Imas & Sally Sadoff & Anya Samek, 2015. "Do People Anticipate Loss Aversion?," CESifo Working Paper Series 5277, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. David Bradford & Charles Courtemanche & Garth Heutel & Patrick McAlvanah & Christopher Ruhm, 2017. "Time preferences and consumer behavior," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 55(2), pages 119-145, December.
    9. Matthias Fahn & Hendrik Hakenes, 2014. "Teamwork as a Self-Disciplining Device," CESifo Working Paper Series 5131, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Jahedi, Salar & Deck, Cary & Ariely, Dan, 2017. "Arousal and economic decision making," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 165-189.
    11. Melanie Lührmann & Marta Serra-Garcia & Joachim Winter, 2014. "The Impact of Financial Education on Adolescents' Intertemporal Choices," CESifo Working Paper Series 4925, CESifo Group Munich.
    12. Pascaline Dupas & Jonathan Robinson, 2013. "Daily Needs, Income Targets and Labor Supply: Evidence from Kenya," NBER Working Papers 19264, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Keith Marzilli Ericson & Jawwad Noor, 2015. "Delay Functions as the Foundation of Time Preference: Testing for Separable Discounted Utility," NBER Working Papers 21095, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Callen, Michael, 2015. "Catastrophes and time preference: Evidence from the Indian Ocean Earthquake," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 199-214.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis

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