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The Evolution of Self-Control in the Brain

David Jiménez-Gómez ()
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David Jiménez-Gómez: Dpto. Fundamentos del Análisis Económico

Working Papers. Serie AD from Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie)

Abstract: Temptation and self-control evolved as single mechanism to make humans behave against their own self-interest. I analyze the evolution of self-control in a principal-agent framework, in which the agent has access to private information but his utility cannot depend on all rel-evant variables. The principal can obtain the first best asymptotically by biasing the utility of the agent (from which an endogenous conflict emerges) and simultaneously endowing the agent with a limited amount of self-control.Several empirical properties of self-control, observed in psychological experiments, are explained in terms of the model: 1) self-control grows over time as it is exercised; 2) self-control is lower when the level of glucose in the blood is low, but does not depend on a physical resource; 3) as the environment becomes more tempting, individuals exhibit less self-control. The model sheds light on the di¿erence between self-control and hyperbolic discounting and provides a framework for understanding the recent surge of chronic non-communicable diseases, suggesting that the current environment could be welfare-reducing.

Keywords: neuroeconomics; evolution of preferences; self-control (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D60 D90 C72 D81 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 46 pages
Date: 2018-07
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-evo, nep-mic and nep-upt
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