Kevin Lewis

August 24, 2014

Time Preferences and Consumer Behavior

David Bradford et al.
NBER Working Paper, July 2014

We investigate the predictive power of survey-elicited time preferences using a representative sample of US residents. In regressions controlling for demographics and risk preferences, we show that the discount factor elicited from choice experiments using multiple price lists and real payments predicts various health, energy, and financial outcomes, including overall self-reported health, smoking, drinking, car fuel efficiency, and credit card balance. We allow for time-inconsistent preferences and find that the long-run and present bias discount factors (δ and β) are each significantly associated in the expected direction with several of these outcomes. Finally, we explore alternate measures of time preference. Elicited discount factors are correlated with several such measures, including self-reported willpower. A multiple proxies approach using these alternate measures shows that our estimated associations between the time-consistent discount factor and health, energy, and financial outcomes may be conservative.


Pleasure Now, Meaning Later: Temporal Dynamics Between Pleasure and Meaning

Jinhyung Kim, Pyungwon Kang & Incheol Choi
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

The present research investigated temporal dynamics between pleasure and meaning such that pleasure is favored in the near future, whereas meaning is favored in the distant future. As an underlying mechanism for this temporal effect, Study 1 demonstrated that pleasure was subordinate to meaning, suggesting that meaning constitutes a higher-level construal than pleasure. Consistent with construal level theory, Studies 2 and 3 found time-dependent changes in the relative weight of pleasure and meaning. Participants evaluated a meaningful life more positively than a pleasurable life as temporal distance increased (Study 2). They were also more likely to choose meaningful options in making distant- versus near-future decisions, compared to pleasurable options (Study 3). Implications and future research were discussed.


Experimentally Measured Susceptibility to Peer Influence and Adolescent Sexual Behavior Trajectories: A Preliminary Study

Sophia Choukas-Bradley et al.
Developmental Psychology, forthcoming

A performance-based measure of peer influence susceptibility was examined as a moderator of the longitudinal association between peer norms and trajectories of adolescents’ number of sexual intercourse partners. Seventy-one 9th grade adolescents (52% female) participated in an experimental “chat room” paradigm involving “e-confederates” who endorsed sexual risk behaviors. Changes in participants’ responses to risk scenarios before versus during the “chat room” were used as a performance-based measure of peer influence susceptibility. Participants reported their perceptions of popular peers’ number of sexual intercourse partners at baseline and self-reported their number of sexual intercourse partners at baseline and 6, 12, and 18 months later. Susceptibility was examined as a moderator of the longitudinal association between perceptions of popular peers’ number of sexual intercourse partners and trajectories of adolescents’ own numbers of partners. High perceptions of the number of popular peers’ sexual intercourse partners combined with high peer influence susceptibility predicted steeper longitudinal trajectories of adolescents’ number of partners. Results provide novel preliminary evidence regarding the importance of peer influence susceptibility in adolescents’ development of sexual behaviors.


Peer Effects in Risk Aversion

Ana Balsa, Néstor Gandelman & Nicolás González
Risk Analysis, forthcoming

We estimate peer effects in risk attitudes in a sample of high school students. Relative risk aversion is elicited from surveys administered at school. Identification of peer effects is based on parents not being able to choose the class within the school of their choice, and on the use of instrumental variables conditional on school-grade fixed effects. We find a significant and quantitatively large impact of peers’ risk attitudes on a male individual's coefficient of risk aversion. Specifically, a one standard deviation increase in the group's coefficient of risk aversion increases an individual's risk aversion by 43%. Our findings shed light on the origin and stability of risk attitudes and, more generally, on the determinants of economic preferences.


Publication bias and the limited strength model of self-control: Has the evidence for ego depletion been overestimated?

Evan Carter & Michael McCullough
Frontiers in Psychology, July 2014

Few models of self-control have generated as much scientific interest as has the limited strength model. One of the entailments of this model, the depletion effect, is the expectation that acts of self-control will be less effective when they follow prior acts of self-control. Results from a previous meta-analysis concluded that the depletion effect is robust and medium in magnitude (d = 0.62). However, when we applied methods for estimating and correcting for small-study effects (such as publication bias) to the data from this previous meta-analysis effort, we found very strong signals of publication bias, along with an indication that the depletion effect is actually no different from zero. We conclude that until greater certainty about the size of the depletion effect can be established, circumspection about the existence of this phenomenon is warranted, and that rather than elaborating on the model, research efforts should focus on establishing whether the basic effect exists. We argue that the evidence for the depletion effect is a useful case study for illustrating the dangers of small-study effects as well as some of the possible tools for mitigating their influence in psychological science.


The Value of Statistical Life: Evidence from Military Retention Incentives and Occupation-Specific Mortality

Michael Greenstone, Stephen Ryan & Michael Yankovich
MIT Working Paper, April 2014

Estimates of the Value of Statistical Life (VSL) are important for use in the cost-benefit analysis of policy-related issues involving trade-offs between wealth and risk of death. We propose a novel approach to estimating the VSL using a discrete choice model of hundreds of thousands of reenlistment decisions of first-time soldiers in the U.S. Army during the 2002-2010 years that encompasses periods of peace and war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The approach and setting provide solutions to many of the problems that have plagued the traditional hedonic labor market approach to estimating the VSL. We exploit substantial variation in both occupation-specific retention bonuses and occupation-specific mortality risk across military occupations and over time within occupations to estimate how soldiers trade off compensation and risk. Our points estimates of the VSL for the population of young men and women who volunteer for active military service range between $165,000 and $769,000 and are tightly estimated. Further, there is some evidence that individuals with the lowest VSLs sort into the most dangerous occupations.


Negative affective reactions reduce perceived likelihood of risk

Heather Lench & Kathleen Darbor
Motivation and Emotion, August 2014, Pages 569-577

This investigation examined the influence of negative affective reactions on the perceived likelihood of experiencing a health risk. Concepts related to formaldehyde exposure were paired with negative stimuli to create affective reactions. In Study 1, perceived risk was reduced when the thought of formaldehyde exposure elicited negative affective reactions compared to a control condition and participants were less interested in information on the risk and recommended spending less money to alleviate the hazard. The potential boundary condition of emotional states was examined in Study 2. Sad or neutral emotion was elicited before learning about the hazard, which was again paired with negative stimuli or no affective stimuli. Sadness increased perceived risk; negative affective reactions reduced perceived risk only when participants were in a neutral incidental state. These findings suggest that negative affective reactions reduce the perceived likelihood of risk, but only in the absence of alternative emotional information.


Introducing upfront losses as well as gains decreases impatience in intertemporal choices with rewards

Cheng-Ming Jiang, Feng-Pei Hu & Long-Fei Zhu
Judgment and Decision Making, July 2014, Pages 297–302

People tend to prefer smaller and sooner (SS) rewards over larger and later (LL) ones even when the latter are much larger. Previous research have identified several ways to enhance people’s patience. Adding to this literature, the current paper demonstrates that introduction of upfront losses as well as gains to both SS and LL rewards can decrease people’s impatience. This effect is incompatible with both the normative exponential and descriptive hyperbolic discounting models, which agree on the additive assumption and the independence assumption. We also exclude the integration explanation which assumes subjects integrate upfront money with final rewards and make a decision with bottom line at the end. We consider several possible explanations, including the salience hypothesis, which states that introducing upfront money makes the money dimension more salient than not and thus increases the attractiveness of LL options.


Gender Differences in Decisions under Profound Uncertainty Are Non-Robust to the Availability of Information on Equally Informed Others’ Decisions

M. Hohnisch et al.
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

We investigated in the laboratory whether gender differences in decisions made under uncertainty without information on decisions of equally informed others are robust to the availability of that information. Participants specified in each of at most 60 periods four capital volumes making up the skeletal balance sheet of a financial institution in a computer-simulated environment with rare but potentially payoff-devastating crises. In the main study, we compared decision outcomes from two treatments: in the first, a participant had access to information on business numbers of two other participants, at least one of whom – unknown to the participant – was of the opposite sex (treatment with group information); in the second, no such outside information was available (treatment without group information). Our main finding is that, without group information, men adopted significantly more risk-exposed financial positions than women, whereas this pattern did not obtain beyond the first few periods when group information was available. A further study produced evidence that this effect of the availability of group information upon risk exposure is moderated by the gender composition of the groups. We also confirm the well-established tendency of social information to diminish cross-sectional variability in decisions in contexts with information sharing.


ADHD subjects fail to suppress eye blinks and microsaccades while anticipating visual stimuli but recover with medication

Moshe Fried et al.
Vision Research, August 2014, Pages 62–72

Oculomotor behavior and parameters are known to be affected by the allocation of attention and could potentially be used to investigate attention disorders. We explored the oculomotor markers of Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that are involuntary and quantitative and that could be used to reveal the core-affected mechanisms, as well as be used for differential diagnosis. We recorded eye movements in a group of 22 ADHD-diagnosed patients with and without medication (methylphenidate) and in 22 control observers while performing the test of variables of attention (t.o.v.a.). We found that the average microsaccade and blink rates were higher in the ADHD group, especially in the time interval around stimulus onset. These rates increased monotonically over session time for both groups, but with significantly faster increments in the unmedicated ADHD group. With medication, the level and time course of the microsaccade rate were fully normalized to the control level, regardless of the time interval within trials. In contrast, the pupil diameter decreased over time within sessions and significantly increased above the control level with medication. We interpreted the suppression of microsaccades and eye blinks around the stimulus onset as reflecting a temporal anticipation mechanism for the transient allocation of attention, and their overall rates as inversely reflecting the level of arousal. We suggest that ADHD subjects fail to maintain sufficient levels of arousal during a simple and prolonged task, which limits their ability to dynamically allocate attention while anticipating visual stimuli. This impairment normalizes with medication and its oculomotor quantification could potentially be used for differential diagnosis.


Disposed to Distraction: Genetic Variation in the Cholinergic System Influences Distractibility But Not Time-on-Task Effects

Anne Berry et al.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, September 2014, Pages 1981-1991

Both the passage of time and external distraction make it difficult to keep attention on the task at hand. We tested the hypothesis that time-on-task and external distraction pose independent challenges to attention and that the brain's cholinergic system selectively modulates our ability to resist distraction. Participants with a polymorphism limiting cholinergic capacity (Ile89Val variant [rs1013940] of the choline transporter gene SLC5A7) and matched controls completed self-report measures of attention and a laboratory task that measured decrements in sustained attention with and without distraction. We found evidence that distraction and time-on-task effects are independent and that the cholinergic system is strongly linked to greater vulnerability to distraction. Ile89Val participants reported more distraction during everyday life than controls, and their task performance was more severely impacted by the presence of an ecologically valid video distractor (similar to a television playing in the background). These results are the first to demonstrate a specific impairment in cognitive control associated with the Ile89Val polymorphism and add to behavioral and cognitive neuroscience studies indicating the cholinergic system's critical role in overcoming distraction.


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