NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Measuring intertemporal preferences using response times

Christopher F. Chabris, David Laibson, Carrie L. Morris, Jonathon P. Schuldt, Dmitry Taubinsky

NBER Working Paper No. 14353
Issued in September 2008
NBER Program(s):   HE   LS   PE

We use two different approaches to measure intertemporal preferences. First we employ the classical method of inferring preferences from a series of choices (subjects choose between $X now or $Y in D days). Second we adopt the novel approach of inferring preferences using only response time data from the same choices (how long it takes subjects to choose between $X now or $Y in D days). In principle, the inference from response times should work, since choices between items of nearly equivalent value should take longer than choices between items with substantially different values. We find that choice-based analysis and response-time-based analysis yield nearly identical discount rate estimates. We conclude that response time data sheds light on both our revealed (choice-based) preferences and on the cognitive processes that implement those preferences.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14353

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