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Experiments on Intertemporal Choice

Lepper, Marissa (2023) Experiments on Intertemporal Choice. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation consists of three essays that contribute to the field of behavioral economics by using experimental methods to explore the causes and impacts of impatient behavior. Chapter 1 identifies excuse-based procrastination. Excuses, or justifications, are a novel environmental factor that I show can induce myopic decisions in agents who would otherwise have been patient. In a lab experiment, participants allocate work between now and later. Some decisions have uncertainty over future work that can be costlessly resolved. I show that participants remain willfully ignorant as an excuse to do less immediate work, even at the risk of increasing total work. I propose that this is due to excuses mitigating a psychic cost associated with impatient behavior that makes procrastination less attractive, which I find suggestive evidence for in a survey. Chapter 2 uses a longitudinal online experiment with real-effort tasks to explore how streaks, i.e., tracking the consecutive periods a task is performed, can serve as a psychological motivator that decreases impatient behavior for tasks that have immediate costs but delayed benefits. However, there is a tradeoff with myopic reactions to broken streaks. Allowing for flexibility, such as “cheat days” when effort costs are higher than normal, can mitigate this by mechanically preserving a streak, but can be exploited to reduce effort on those days. Chapter 3 looks at how differential time horizons for debt repayment penalties impact the choices of financially distressed borrowers who are faced with the decision of what, not if, to default. Using observational credit report data, we find that a substantial subset of such borrowers who hold a varied debt portfolio avoid defaulting on revolving credit, resulting in an eventual default on their student loans. Although defaulting on student loans has much more severe penalties than defaulting on revolving credit, they are much more delayed. We explore how this timing influences financial decision making using an online survey.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Lepper, Marissamarissa.lepper@gmail.comMAL3030000-0001-9618-9079
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairVesterlund, Lisevester@pitt.eduvester
Date: 15 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 27 March 2023
Approval Date: 15 May 2023
Submission Date: 7 April 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 131
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Economics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: economics, behavioral economics, intertemporal choice, self control, impatience, myopia, procrastination, excuses, justifications, streaks, information, motivated information avoidance
Date Deposited: 15 May 2023 16:55
Last Modified: 15 May 2023 16:55


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