Papers I wish I had written

What is truly scarce inside the human mind?  Hayek (The Sensory Order) and the neuroeconomists have grasped this as a central question of economics.  Here is a new paper:

Common intuition and experimental psychology suggest that the ability
to self-regulate, willpower, is a depletable resource. We investigate
the behavior of an agent who optimally consumes a cake (or paycheck or
workload) over time and who recognizes that restraining his consumption
too much would exhaust his willpower and leave him unable to manage his
consumption. Unlike prior models of self-control, a model with
willpower depletion can explain the increasing consumption sequences
observable in high frequency data (and corresponding laboratory
findings), the apparent links between unrelated self-control behaviors,
and the altered economic behavior following imposition of cognitive
loads. At the same time, willpower depletion provides an alternative
explanation for a taste for commitment, intertemporal preference
reversals, and procrastination. Accounting for willpower depletion thus
provides a more unified theory of time preference. It also provides an
explanation for anomalous intratemporal behaviors such as low
correlations between health-related activities.

My approach to willpower deletion, of course, is to always leave oneself wanting to do a little more of the virtuous task, rather than to overdiscipline.  If you have promised yourself 200 push-ups, stop at 198.  Here is the link.


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