Arnold Kling  

Willpower as a Scarce Resource

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Emre Ozdenoren, Stephen Salant, and Dan Silverman write,


an agent in our model would strictly prefer to have his “cake” or paycheck doled out to him by a savings club. For if the entire amount were available, resisting spending it would deplete his scarce willpower.

The authors cite a paper by David Cutler and Edward Glaeser on the curious fact that people who are careful about health in some dimensions (such as not smoking) are often careless in others (such as overeating). The Ozdenoren, et al, paper would explain this in terms of people allocating scarce willpower differently.

Thanks to Tyler Cowen for the pointer.


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COMMENTS (4 to date)
dearieme writes:

Smoking vs overeating: but overeating doesn't exist - it's actually underexercising, which insight immediately explains the observation.

William writes:

THIS logical connection between psychology and economics underlines the importance of behavioral economics. Pity mathmeticians highjacked economics in the 1920's.

mikeKP writes:

There is an active market available willing to turn any reliable stream of payments (trust funds, lottery winnings) into a lump sum available now. Would the agent choosing a lump sum represent a failure (exhaustion) of willpower within the model or counterexample to the model?

Jonathan Dingel writes:
the curious fact that people who are careful about health in some dimensions (such as not smoking) are often careless in others (such as overeating)

Well, nicotine intake reduces appetite, so it'd be more curious if the opposite were true.

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