Sunday, April 18, 2010

Obesity and Hyperbolic Discounting

A recent paper  in the Journal of Consumer Policy (subscription required) considers the usefulness of the hyperbolic discounting concept in the targetting of obesity policy.

Abstract: Efforts to use nutrition education to combat the growing obesity problem in the USA have been largely unsuccessful. One possible reason for the persistence of the obesity problem is the presence of consumers who discount hyperbolically. To counter this phenomenon, sophisticated agents may try to employ commitment devices to protect long–term health goals from short–term consumption decisions. This study uses data from the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals to examine the impact of hyperbolic discounting and use of commitment devices on individuals’ caloric consumption. The results suggest that obese dieters display behavior consistent with hyperbolic discounting.

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