The Importance of the Cognitive Environment for Intertemporal Choice
GATE Working Paper No. 1316
55 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2013
Date Written: April 3, 2013
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.
Keywords: Time preferences, self-control, depletion, sucrose, experiment
JEL Classification: C91, D90
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation