The Importance of the Cognitive Environment for Intertemporal Choice
University of Oregon - Department of Economics
University of California, Santa Barbara - Department of Economics; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Marie Claire Villeval
Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) - Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE)
April 3, 2013
GATE Working Paper No. 1316
We experimentally manipulate two aspects of the cognitive environment - cognitive depletion and recent sugar intake - and estimate their effects on individuals’ time preferences in a way that allows us to identify the structural parameters of a simple (α,β,δ) intertemporal utility function for each person. We find that individuals exposed to a prior cognitive load, individuals who consumed a sugared drink and individuals who consumed a sugar-free drink all defer more income than a control group exposed to none of these conditions. Structural estimates show that all three effects are driven entirely by increases in the intertemporal substitution elasticity parameter (α). Together, our results suggest that at least for complex economic decisions like intertemporal financial choice, the ‘attention/focusing’ effect of both prior cognitively demanding activity and prior assignment of a primary reward can improve decision-making.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 55
Keywords: Time preferences, self-control, depletion, sucrose, experiment
JEL Classification: C91, D90
Date posted: April 5, 2013
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