Temptation and Commitment in the Laboratory

39 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2017 Last revised: 19 Nov 2017

See all articles by Daniel Houser

Daniel Houser

George Mason University - Department of Economics; Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Daniel Schunk

Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz - Gutenberg School of Economics and Management; University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Joachim K. Winter

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Max Planck Society for the Advancement of the Sciences - Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA); Deutsche Bundesbank - Research Department

Erte Xiao

Monash University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 15, 2017

Abstract

We report data from a novel laboratory experiment on economic decisions under persistent temptations. This type of temptation is ubiquitous, as it refers to any temptation that is present until one either gives in or makes a costly commitment decision to have it removed. Subjects in our experiment are repeatedly offered an option with instantaneous benefit that also entails a substantial reduction to overall earnings. We show that this option is tempting in the sense that a substantial fraction of our subjects incur pecuniary costs to eliminate the choice, and thus commit not to choose this alternative. We find that commitment and giving in to temptation generally occur at the first opportunity, though a non-negligible fraction of subjects delay either making the commitment decision or giving in to temptation. This delay is consistent with the costs of self-control increasing with its use.

Keywords: self-control, willpower, temptation, commitment, laboratory experiment

JEL Classification: D11, C91

Suggested Citation

Houser, Daniel and Schunk, Daniel and Winter, Joachim K. and Xiao, Erte, Temptation and Commitment in the Laboratory (November 15, 2017). Games and Economic Behavior, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3071656

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Joachim K. Winter

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) ( email )

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Erte Xiao

Monash University ( email )

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