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The Impact of Soft Traits and Cognitive Abilities on Life Outcomes: Subjective Wellbeing, Education Achievement, and Rational Choices: a Chocolate Tasting Experiment

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Abstract

Linking to a growing literature in behavioral economics, this study combines neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics to empirically analyze the extent to which academic achievement, the relative weight of rationality vs. fairness in decision-making, and life satisfaction are affected by cognitive ability, persistent personality traits, and short-term stimuli based on psychological priming techniques. Prior to undertaking a course exam and playing the role of the respondent in an ultimatum game, a group of Masters and PhD students were stimulated either emotionally (via chocolate tasting) or rationally (via mathematical problem solving). Results show that, in addition to rational skills, short term stimuli and persistent personality traits have a significant impact on academic performance. They also influence the extent to which decisions are affected by notions of rationality and fairness and individuals’ subjective satisfaction with life. Given the economic importance of the associated outcomes, this opens up an important research agenda.

Suggested Citation

  • Sara Savastano, 2012. "The Impact of Soft Traits and Cognitive Abilities on Life Outcomes: Subjective Wellbeing, Education Achievement, and Rational Choices: a Chocolate Tasting Experiment," CEIS Research Paper 241, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 17 Jul 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:rtv:ceisrp:241
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert H. Frank & Thomas Gilovich & Dennis T. Regan, 1993. "Does Studying Economics Inhibit Cooperation?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 159-171, Spring.
    2. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1986. "Fairness and the Assumptions of Economics," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 285-300, October.
    3. Bolton, Gary E, 1991. "A Comparative Model of Bargaining: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1096-1136, December.
    4. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
    5. Almlund, Mathilde & Duckworth, Angela Lee & Heckman, James & Kautz, Tim, 2011. "Personality Psychology and Economics," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    6. Bolton Gary E. & Zwick Rami, 1995. "Anonymity versus Punishment in Ultimatum Bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 95-121, July.
    7. Rustichini, Aldo & DeYoung, Colin G. & Anderson, Jon E. & Burks, Stephen V., 2012. "Toward the Integration of Personality Theory and Decision Theory in the Explanation of Economic and Health Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 6750, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Neuroeconomics; Psychology and Behavioral Economics; Satisfaction with life; Rational Choices; Consumer Theory;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D87 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Neuroeconomics
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General

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