Sophistication about Self-Control

SOEPpapers 1144, 47 S. : Anh.

Deborah A. Cobb-Clark, Sarah C. Dahmann, Daniel A. Kamhöfer, Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch

2021

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Abstract

We propose a broadly applicable empirical approach to classify individuals as time-consistent versus native or sophisticated regarding their self-control limitations. Operationalizing our approach based on nationally representative data reveals that self-control problems are pervasive and that most people are at least partly aware of their limited self-control. Compared to naifs, sophisticates have higher IQs, better educated parents, and are more likely to take up commitment devices. Accounting for both the level and awareness of self-control limitations has predictive power beyond one-dimensional notions of self-control that neglect awareness. Importantly, sophistication fully compensates for self-control problems when choices involve immediate costs and later benefits. Raising people’s awareness of their own self-control limitations may thus assist them in overcoming any adverse consequences.

Topics: Personality



JEL-Classification: D91;D01
Keywords: self-control; sophistication; naiveté; commitment devices; present bias

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