Awareness of Low Self-Control: Theory and Evidence

41 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2016

See all articles by Elif Halafir

Elif Halafir

Carnegie Mellon University

Sera Linardi

University of Pittsburgh

Date Written: April 4, 2016


Self-reported survey measures of self-control continue to appeal to practitioners for ease of implementation, necessitating further investigation of how well they predict outcomes. We provide a simple theoretical model and empirical evidence that relates how awareness of self-control and availability of commitment devices affect the way survey responses predict outcomes. This paper focuses on the Ameriks et al. (2007) survey, which utilizes the deviation between self-reported ideal and predicted behavior, namely Expected Deviation (ED), to capture self-control problems. Our model predicts that ED will largely be negatively correlated with outcomes, except in settings where awareness can play a large role (e.g. when self-control is low and commitment devices are available). Previous empirical evidence, derived from highly successful populations, has shown that larger ED is correlated with worse outcomes. We complement this with evidence from the homeless population, showing that ED is positively correlated to amount saved in shelter lockboxes, a commitment savings device. As a whole, it appears that the ED measure correlates with outcomes in a theoretically-consistent manner after accounting for awareness.

Keywords: Self-control; consumer behavior; surveys; commitment devices; awareness; sophistication

JEL Classification: D14, D9

Suggested Citation

Halafir, Elif and Linardi, Sera, Awareness of Low Self-Control: Theory and Evidence (April 4, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Elif Halafir

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Sera Linardi (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh ( email )

135 N Bellefield Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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