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Imperfect Memory and the Preference for Increasing Payments

  • John Smith


    (Rutgers University-Camden)

In this paper we show how imperfect memory can imply a preference for increasing payments. We model an agent making a decision regarding effort in two periods where the cost of effort is imperfectly known. Before making the first decision, the agent receives a signal related to the cost of effort, which is subsequently forgotten. Before the second decision, the agent makes an inference regarding the content of this signal based on the publicly available information: the action taken and the wage paid. A preference for increasing payments naturally emerges from our model. With the auxiliary assumption that obtaining wage income requires an unknown cost of effort and obtaining rental income requires a known, zero cost of effort, our results provide an explanation for the experimental findings of Loewenstein and Sicherman (1991). These authors find evidence of a stronger preference for increasing "income from wages" rather than "income from rent." Additionally, our model makes the novel prediction that this preference for increasing payments will only occur when the contracts are neither very likely nor very unlikely to cover the cost of effort.

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Paper provided by Rutgers University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 200805.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: 08 Aug 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rut:rutres:200805
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  1. Piccione, Michele & Rubinstein, Ariel, 1997. "On the Interpretation of Decision Problems with Imperfect Recall," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, July.
  2. Gary Gigliotti & Barry Sopher, 1997. "Violations of Present-Value Maximization in Income Choice," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 45-69, July.
  3. Benabou, R. & Tirole, J., 2001. "Willpower and Personal Rules," Papers 216, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  4. Gary Gigliotti & Barry Sopher, 1998. "Analysis of Intertemporal Choice: A New Framework and Experimental Results," Departmental Working Papers 199804, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  5. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520, 07.
  6. David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 2002. "An Economic Approach to the Psychology of Change: Amnesia, Inertia, and Impulsiveness," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 11(3), pages 379-421, 09.
  7. Manzini, Paola & Mariotti, Marco & Mittone, Luigi, 2006. "Choosing Monetary Sequences: Theory and Experimental Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 2129, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Clark, Andrew E., 1999. "Are wages habit-forming? evidence from micro data," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 179-200, June.
  9. Grund, Christian & Sliwka, Dirk, 2005. "Reference Dependent Preferences and the Impact of Wage Increases on Job Satisfaction: Theory and Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 1879, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Loewenstein, George F & Sicherman, Nachum, 1991. "Do Workers Prefer Increasing Wage Profiles?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(1), pages 67-84, January.
  11. B. Douglas Bernheim & Raphael Thomadsen, 2005. "Memory and Anticipation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(503), pages 271-304, 04.
  12. Dow, James, 1991. "Search Decisions with Limited Memory," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(1), pages 1-14, January.
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