Sunday, April 26, 2015

Workshop on "The Behavioural Science of Self-Control" (December 4, 2015)

On December 4th 2015, we will host a workshop on “The Behavioural Science of Self-Control: Integrating Economic and Psychological Perspectives”. The workshop is funded by the Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE). It will take place in the Court Room in Stirling University.

You can sign up for the Workshop here.

Self-control is an important human capacity that prevents people from acting on impulses. It has been identified as a key variable in both economics and psychology. This workshop aims to bring together researchers from both disciplines in order to discuss different perspectives on self-control, overcome artificial disciplinary boundaries, and integrate perspectives into a more coherent behavioural science of self-control. 

Figure 1: The Behavioural Science of Self-Control
In economics, self-control is often defined as the ability to stick to prior plans and thus have dynamically consistent time preferences. The methods typically used in economics to analyse self-control problems are mathematical formalisations, secondary data, and incentivised delay discounting questions in experiments or large scale surveys. In psychology, self-control is defined as the ability to regulate one's behaviours, emotions, and thoughts. Psychologists typically use scales in surveys and experimental manipulations to analyse self-control (see Figure 1).

We would like to explore possibilities to combine theoretical and methodological approaches from economics and psychology in novel ways in order to generate new hypotheses, find new ways to test existing hypothesis, compare different theoretical and methodological approaches, figure out new ways to formalise self-control problems, and take the first step toward a behavioural science of self-control. Themes that might be discussed at the workshop include:
  • Different measurements of self-control in economics and psychology.
  • The roles of temptation and willpower in economics and psychology.
  • Economic and psychological consequences of different degrees of self-control.
  • The effectiveness of interventions to improve self-control.
  • The mathematical formalisation of insights from self-control research.

Day Schedule

9.00am to 9.30am: Registration

9.30am to 9.45am: Introduction

9.45am to 10.30am: Dr Leonhard Lades "Present Bias and Everyday Self-Control Failures"

Abstract: Present bias is the economist's favorite explanation for self-control problems. Various studies show that present bias as elicited in monetary delay discounting tasks is associated with real word behaviors that are affected by self-control, such as eating, smoking, consumption, and financial decision-making. However, recent research suggests that monetary delay discounting tasks do not provide useful information about individuals' preferences, and it has not yet been established whether present-bias indeed measures self-control problems. We directly test whether individual differences in present bias are linked to individual differences in self-control as it affects everyday decision-making. We elicit time preferences avoiding most confounds mentioned in the literature, trait temptation and trait self-control using scale measures, and everyday temptations, self-control attempts, and self-control failures using a day reconstruction methodology. In a sample of 142 participants we find that experimentally elicited present bias is not associated with self-control problems, neither when measured on the trait level nor in everyday life. The results are in line with a clear distinction between discounting and visceral influences as determinants of decision making. The results can also explain why recent studies find only weak empirical associations between present bias elicited in monetary delay discounting tasks and life outcomes in non-monetary domains.

10.30am to 11.15am: Prof Kirsten Rohde "Measuring Decreasing Impatience".

Abstract: Decreasing impatience is a behavioral phenomenon which can lead to time-inconsistent behavior. I introduce a measure of decreasing impatience, the DI-index, which can conveniently be elicited in experiments and surveys. The DI-index measures the change of impatience independently from the level of impatience. It is generally applicable and does not require choices to satisfy a specific discounting model. It can, for instance, also be computed for people with increasing or constant impatience and even for people who do not satisfy the discounted utility model. The DI-index cannot only be used to measure decreasing impatience, but also to characterize and test various discounting models.

11.15am to 11.45am: Coffee

11.45am to 12.30pm: Prof Siegfried Dewitte "Behavioral Vaccination and Paling Temptations".

Abstract: Policy is often aimed at curbing the (over)consumption of products that entail health hazards. Building on the truism that the presence of these products fuels their consumption, policy often relies on restricting their availability and accessibility. Acknowledging that this may not always be physically or politically feasible, we explored if the unavoidable availability can be harnessed as a mean to reduce the pull of temptations. In a series of studies we showed that physically exposing consumers to food temptations in a context that is incompatible with the consumption of the tempting food reduces the food’s attractiveness and its subsequent consumption. We are exploring the scope of this ‘behavioral vaccination’ effect for different samples, delays, and situations. We are further investigating the underlying mechanism with a view to making the technique more effective, efficient, and widely applicable. 

12.30pm – 1.30pm: Lunch

1.30pm – 2.15pm: Dr Michael Daly "Self-Control, Time Preferences, and Health and Well-Being Across the Lifespan".  

Abstract: Drawing on three population samples, we show that informant ratings of child self-control and choice-based measures of impatience in adulthood predict subsequent health and well-being. We identify health damaging behaviours including smoking and obesity and socioeconomic success including social mobility, savings, leadership progression, and employment as feasible pathways from self-control to later health and well-being. The cumulative influence of self-control and impatience on behavioural and economic outcomes can be used to produce a lifespan model of the health and well-being benefits of self-control. Such a model could inform estimates of the potential societal benefits of large-scale intervention programmes targeting self-control and impatience early in life.

2.15pm – 3.00pm:
Prof Charles Sprenger "Judging Experimental Evidence on Dynamic Inconsistency":

Abstract: Models of dynamically inconsistent decisionmaking are among the most prominent in behavioral economics. Such models capture the tensions of temptation and self-control in elegant formulation, delivering intuitive deviations from the standard model of intertemporal choice, and providing novel prescriptions for policymakers. In this brief paper, I attempt to judge the experimental literature on dynamic inconsistency, identifying key challenges and innovations, and providing one view as to how the literature may evolve.

3.00pm – 3.30pm Coffee

3.30pm – 4.15pm: Prof Wilhelm Hofmann "On Integrating the Components of Self-Control"
Abstract: As the science of self-control matures, the organization and integration of its key concepts becomes increasingly important. In response, we identified seven major components or “nodes” in current theories and research bearing on self-control: desire, higher-order goal, desire-goal conflict, control motivation, control capacity, control effort, and enactment constraints. To unify these diverse and interdisciplinary areas of research, we formulated the interplay of these components in an integrative model of self-control. In this model, desire and an at least partly incompatible higher-order goal generate desire-goal conflict, which activates control motivation. Control motivation and control capacity interactively determine potential control effort. The actual control effort invested is determined by several moderators including desire strength, perceived skill, and competing goals. Actual control effort and desire compete to determine a prevailing force, which ultimately determines behavior, provided that enactment constraints do not impede it. The proposed theoretical framework is useful for highlighting several new directions for research on self-control and for classifying self-control failures and self-control interventions.

4.15pm – 5pm: Round-table discussion on the future of self-control research.

The 6 SIRE Travel bursaries have been allocated.

You can sign up for the Workshop here. If you have questions, send them to l.k.lades(at)

1 comment:

Josué Ortega said...

Is there a call for papers for invited presentations?