An experiment on temptation and attitude towards paternalism
In this project we investigate experimentally the link between self-control and attitude towards paternalism in a principal-agent framework. This allows us to distinguish between models of costly self-control and models of time inconsistency, which often make identical predictions in other contexts. We invite our subjects for a free lunch: a burger or a turkey. We verify in a pre-test that the burger is considered (much) more tasty and tempting, while the turkey is seen as healthier. In the experiment proper we observe incentivized choices of four types: what menus (must eat burger; must eat turkey; your choice: burger or turkey) subjects assign to another; how they reward each of these menu choices yet another participant made for them; which of the two dishes they pick on the spot (if given the choice); whether they want to pre-commit to a choice of dish for a future session. Similarly to some recent experimental results we find a significant fraction of subjects willing to selfcommit. We also observe non-trivial sets of individuals who reward highly a restricted choice and paternalistically restrict other's choice. Moreover, there is a strong link between these three tendencies, suggesting a common thread underlying the use of commitment devices and paternalistic behavior as well as approval thereof in environments involving temptations. These findings are consistent with the models of costly self-control rather than time inconsistency. (original abstract)
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