Torn between Want and Should: Self-control and Behavioral Choices

Authors: Abhinash Borah, Raghvi Garg


We model the behavior of a decision maker who exercises self-control to address an intrapersonal conflict between what she wants to do (her “want-self”) and what she thinks she should do (her “should-self”). In any menu, her expression of self-control involves, first, eliminating a subset of alternatives that are worst according to her should-self which, if chosen, induces guilt. Then, amongst the remaining alternatives, she chooses the best one according to her want-self. We characterize the model behaviorally and determine the extent to which the preferences of the two selves and the alternatives eliminated in any menu are uniquely identified. We compare and contrast the model’s implications for “non-standard” choices with existing models of self-control.