Naïve and Capricious: Stumbling into the Ring of Self-Control Conflict


Published in Journal of Economic Psychology 34(1): 8-19

ESMT Working Paper No. 11-09

48 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2011 Last revised: 28 Nov 2016

See all articles by Kristian Ove R. Myrseth

Kristian Ove R. Myrseth

Trinity College Dublin

Conny E. Wollbrant

Göteborg University - School of Business, Economics and Law

Date Written: September 1, 2011

Abstract

We model self-control conflict as a stochastic struggle of an agent against a visceral influence, which impels the agent to act sub-optimally. The agent holds costly pre-commitment technology to avoid the conflict altogether and may decide whether to procure pre-commitment or to confront the visceral influence. We examine naïve expectations for the strength of the visceral influence; underestimating the visceral influence may lead the agent to exaggerate the expected utility of resisting temptation, and so mistakenly forego pre-commitment. Our analysis reveals conditions under which higher willpower – and lower visceral influence – reduces welfare. We further demonstrate that lowering risk aversion could reduce welfare. The aforementioned results call into question certain policy measures aimed at helping people improve their own behavior.

Keywords: self-control, temptation, inter-temporal choice, pre-commitment

JEL Classification: D01, D03, D69, D90

Suggested Citation

Myrseth, Kristian Ove R. and Wollbrant, Conny E., Naïve and Capricious: Stumbling into the Ring of Self-Control Conflict (September 1, 2011).
Published in Journal of Economic Psychology 34(1): 8-19; ESMT Working Paper No. 11-09. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1921203 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1921203

Kristian Ove R. Myrseth (Contact Author)

Trinity College Dublin ( email )

2-3 College Green
Dublin, Leinster 2
Ireland

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.tcd.ie/business/people/MYRSETHK/

Conny E. Wollbrant

Göteborg University - School of Business, Economics and Law ( email )

Vasagatan 1
Goteborg, 40530
Sweden

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