Influences of the past on choices of the future

In Rob Ranyard, Ray Crozier & Ola Svenson (eds.), Decision making: Cognitive models and explanations. Routledge. pp. 167-189 (1997)
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Intertemporal choice is the study of how people make choices about what and how much to do at various points in time, when choices at one time influence the possibilities available at other points in time. These choices are influenced by the relative value people assign to two or more payoffs at different points in time. Most choices require decision-makers to trade off costs and benefits at different points in time. These decisions may be about savings, work effort, education, nutrition, exercise, health care and so forth. Since early in the twentieth century, economists have analyzed intertemporal decisions using the discounted utility model, which assumes that people evaluate the pleasures and pains resulting from a decision in much the same way that financial markets evaluate losses and gains, exponentially 'discounting' the value of outcomes according to how delayed they are in time. Discounted utility has been used to describe how people actually make intertemporal choices and it has been used as a tool for public policy. Policy decisions about how much to spend on research and development, health and education all depend on the discount rate used to analyze the decision.
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