After reading the relevant part of Jensen’s “Self-Interest, Altruism, Incentives, and Agency Theory” JACF 7(2), Summer, 1994, collect examples showing institutions or practices used to reduce the costs of self-control.


Suggestions for minimizing self-control costs are worth collecting. Some clear cases from previous years:
1.Students’ homework.

2.Mid-term exams (and finals, let me add).

3.Sharing a bank account with your boy/girl friend.

4.Choosing a library of an unfamiliar school to prepare an exam, thus avoiding friends. In general, going to a remote place to prepare a difficult exam.

5.Adopting a “just in time” production process in terms of food: zero inventories of food at home help in reducing self-control costs related to eating habits.

6.Voluntary castration of rapists. Here we have a case where ex post costs are not increased, but “benefits” are reduced. The same problem was tackled in Stanley Kubrick’s “Clockwork Orange” film by increasing the cost through induced reflex conditioning.

7.Academicians send abstracts of unfinished papers to conferences to force themselves to finish them.

8.Leaving the lighter at home when trying to quit smoking. (This might be better than the technique of leaving behind the pack of cigarettes, because of the high and increasing cost of asking for a light.)

9.Never buying a phone card.

10.Arranging to meet friends in inconvenient places, to motivate punctuality.

11.When five-shot guns appeared some hunters kept to two shot guns alleging that “five-shooters spend more cartridges”.

12.Leaving your credit and debit cards at home when going in a shopping trip.

13.Deciding not to purchase a TV set.

14.Placing the alarm-clock where it is not accessible from the bed.

My best friend’s preferred recipes:
15.Move to New Zealand to avoid meeting a fatal love.

16.Become a missionary in Biafra in order to behave as a good Christian.

Some classic examples:
17.Ulysses’ trick to avoid suffering from a severe siren-related condition. (Did not Don Quixote do something similar, too?).

18.Hernán Cortés made a big fire with his ships in order to make withdrawal impossible. This is a case of more than mere individual self-control. Let us say that he drastically reduced the self-control costs of his soldiers too.

Some dubious or mixed cases:
19.Joining a sports club or a gym in order to commit oneself to exercise. Why does it work if fees are sunk costs? Does it really work? For how long?

20.Some casinos keep a list of people where gambling addicts can register. They are subsequently prevented from entering. It’s a bad example because it refers to sick people.

21.Trying not to change a bill for a large amount of money into bills of smaller denominations (?).
Information-production cases: (Could these cases be better considered as mere information production cases? Self-control cases are the ones where the decision maker knows clearly what is going on):

22.Leave the previous bill near the phone, or install a meter device.

23.Bank Sabadell and Citybank sell a personal account which provides detailed personal accounting. They are more valuable to families with many income-earners (and spenders) and many expenditures, these being factors which increase accounting costs.

24.Methods for controlling worker absenteeism (external control).

25.Make an appointment with the doctor for just after Christmas to have your cholesterol checked, thus preventing you from eating too much during the holidays.

26.Method for periodic collection of revenue for the Social Security by withholding a charge from gross wages. This would prevent individuals from being tempted to not set aside sufficient funds (external method of control which might reduce the costs of self-control.

Go back