Willpower and the Optimal Control of Visceral Urges

31 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2010

See all articles by Emre Ozdenoren

Emre Ozdenoren

London Business School; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Stephen W. Salant

University of Michigan; Resources for the Future

Dan Silverman

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Economics Department; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 6, 2010

Abstract

Common intuition and experimental psychology suggest that the ability to self-regulate ("willpower") is a depletable resource. We investigate the behavior of an agent with limited willpower who optimally consumes over time an endowment of a tempting and storable consumption good or "cake". We assume that restraining consumption below the most tempting feasible rate requires willpower. Any willpower not used to regulate consumption may be valuable in controlling other urges. Willpower thus links otherwise unrelated behaviors requiring self-control. An agent with limited willpower will display apparent domain-specific time preference. Such an agent will almost never perfectly smooth his consumption, even when it is feasible to do so. Whether the agent relaxes control of his consumption over time (as experimental psychologists predict) or tightens it (as most behavioral theories predict) depends in our model on the net effect of two analytically distinct and opposing forces.

Keywords: willpower, self-control, hotelling

JEL Classification: Q3, D9, J22

Suggested Citation

Ozdenoren, Emre and Salant, Stephen W. and Silverman, Dan, Willpower and the Optimal Control of Visceral Urges (July 6, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1635350 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1635350

Emre Ozdenoren

London Business School ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London, London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Stephen W. Salant (Contact Author)

University of Michigan ( email )

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States
313-764-2370 (Phone)
313-764-2769 (Fax)

Resources for the Future ( email )

1616 P Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Dan Silverman

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Economics Department ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-764-2447 (Phone)
734-764-2769 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.lsa.umich.edu/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
74
Abstract Views
814
rank
243,619
PlumX Metrics