An Experimental Investigation of Time Discounting in Strategic Settings

Published in: Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, v. 54, Feb. 2015, p. 95-104

Posted on RAND.org on March 17, 2016

by Cary Deck, Salar Jahedi

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Several studies have shown that people greatly discount future benefits and costs, but few have examined how discounting is manifested in strategic settings. This paper investigates the degree to which the timing of payments affects behavior in four commonly studied strategic settings: a Prisoners' Dilemma, a Stag-Hunt Game, a First Price Auction, and a Second Price Auction. In general, a two week delay in the date of payment has a comparable effect on outcomes as a substantial reduction in current payoffs. A follow-up study compares individual's own discount rates with their beliefs of others' discount rates and finds that people generally think they are more patient than others. This belief can drive behavior in strategic settings: we find clear evidence for this in the Stag-Hunt Game.

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