"Goal-Setting and Self-Control" Journal of Economic Theory, 2013, 148(2): 601-626.

Previous version with social comparison here.

Abstract.  This paper addresses the role of non-binding goals to attenuate time inconsistency. Present-biased agents
have linear reference-dependent preferences and endogenously set a goal that is the reference point. They face
an infinite horizon, optimal stopping problem in continuous time, where there exists an option value of waiting due to
uncertainty. When there is sufficient commitment to expectation-based goals, goal-setting attenuates the time-inconsistent
agent's tendency to stop too early, and may even lead an agent to wait longer than the first-best. In particular, reference
dependence is strictly worse for a time-consistent agent. Notably, none of the effects of goal-setting require any form of
loss aversion.

"Goal Setting and Energy Conservation," (with Matthew Harding), Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2014, 107(0): 209-227.

Abstract.  This paper develops a theoretical model of consumer demand for an energy conservation program that involves
non-binding, self-set goals. We present evidence from a Northern Illinois goal-setting program, aimed at reducing residential
electricity consumption, that is difficult to reconcile with standard preferences and is broadly consistent with a model of
present-biased consumers with reference-dependent preferences. We find that the need for commitment is correlated with
program adoption, higher pre-adoption consumption, and lower responsiveness to goals. Consumers choosing realistic goals persistently
save substantially more, achieving savings of nearly 11%, than those choosing very low or unrealistically high goals.

"Learning Tastes Through Social Interaction," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2014, 107(0): 64-85.

Abstract.  This paper offers an information-based model of social interaction, and analyzes optimal investment
and pricing of services that facilitate interaction in a duopoly. Agents have uncertainty over their preferences but are aware
that they are correlated with others', so there exists an incentive to communicate with others in the population. When a firm's good
can be bundled with a coordination mechanism for its customers, its value is endogenously determined due to a consumption externality.
Although this mechanism increases total surplus, it is underprovided and consumer surplus decreases.

"Goal Bracketing and Self-Control" (December 2017, Games and Economic Behavior, accepted)

Abstract.  This paper studies the role of goal bracketing to attenuate time inconsistency. When setting non-binding goals
for a multi-stage project, an agent must decide how to group, or bracket, such goals for evaluation. He can bracket broadly
by setting an aggregate goal for the entire project, or narrowly by setting incremental goals for individual stages. A loss averse
agent brackets optimally by trading off motivation and risk pooling, which interacts non-trivially with time discounting. An aggregate
goal becomes more attractive as early-stage uncertainty increases, while incremental goals become more attractive when
later-stage uncertainty increases.


Working Papers

"Trust in Signals and the Origins of Disagreement," (with Ing-Haw Cheng) (June 2018)

Abstract.  Why do individuals interpret the same information differently? When the credibility of signal sources is uncertain,
agents must determine how much weight to give signals. We propose that individuals mistakenly use signals to infer
their source's credibility before forming posteriors. This predicts that individuals disagree over both an unknown
state and credibility when they encounter signals in different order, even if individuals share common priors and information,
because of different first impressions of credibility. This can generate overconfidence, confirmation bias, and their opposites,
and provides a theory for the origins of disagreement underlying models of speculative trading and price volatility.


Work in Progress

"Persuasion in Advertising through Meaningless Claims"

"The Optimal Market Design for Green Energy Tags: A Large Scale Analysis," joint with Matthew Burda (University of Toronto)
and Matthew Harding (Duke University).