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Methodological and Theoretical Contributions to the Study of Time Preference


Research objectives and content

An important aspect of economic decision-making is how much weight we should place on future outcomes. Most economists assume that people put less weight on the future than on the present, but how much less weight? A great deal of recent research has been devoted to developing techniques for measuring intertemporal rates of discount, which reflect the way in which the value that individual decision maker's place on the future declines with time. All of these techniques, however, have a serious methodological shortcoming. When economists talk out discounting, they are talking out discounted utility. However, psychologists and experimental economists invariably measure discount rates for amounts, usually of money. Yet it is well known that the relationship between utility and money is not linear. Consequently, individual discount rates as measured by money discounting will not reflect the rate at which utility is discounted. The purpose of my project is to elicit the rates at which individual decision makers discount utility. In our ongoing research, we separately measure individual utility functions for both gains and losses (using both the lottery-equivalent and trade-off methods) and the discount functions for gains and losses in money. By using the derived utility functions to transform money amounts into utility, we can obtain accurate estimates of the rate at which utility is discounted.

Training content (objective, benefit and expected impact)

I have been trained as a psychologist. Much of my research, however, is in a multidisciplinary topic area, which overlaps both economics and psychology. Spending a year at Leeds conducting research with economists and economically sophisticated psychologists will enhance my ability to do cutting edge research in this field, and broaden the audience for this research.

Links with industry / industrial relevance (22)


University of Leeds
Blenheim Terrace
LS2 9JT Leeds
United Kingdom