Behavior Economics

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First, read the two references below — both are available electronically from the AUT library, and links to them can be found in the “Course Resources” section of the ECON801 Blackboard page. Based on this reading, write an essay that provides background to, and a summary of, the experimental results in the paper by Ariely and Wertenbroch.

In particular, your essay should do the following things in the following order:

  1. Standard economic models of (non-strategic) choice imply that a decision-maker would never choose to throw away future options, or make them more costly to access. However, real life furnishes many examples of behaviour that violates this principle. Briefly describe how behavioural economics can rationalise such behaviour. Your explanation should include a discussion of the concepts of “time consistency” and “commitment”.
  2. What hypotheses do Ariely and Wertenbroch test?
  3. How do they test them?
  4. What results do they obtain and what conclusions to they draw from these results?

As a rough guide, you should expect to devote similar space to each of parts (1), (3) and (4), with somewhat less space for (2). Avoid allocating excessive space to (1) — the main focus is the Ariely and Wertenbroch paper, so (1) should give just enough background for the reader to understand their hypotheses.


Edward Cartright (2018): Behavioral Economics. Routledge, London. Read sections 4.1, 4.2 (excluding 4.2.3) and 10.3.

Dan Ariely and Klaus Wertenbroch (2002): “Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment”. Psychological Science, 13(3), 219-224.

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