Consumer Obligation and Counterproductive Consumption : Can the things We Don't Use Affect Us More Than Those We Do?
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Most economic consumption is relatively exclusive in time, as there is only a limited number of activities in which one may engage at a given moment. However, items that we own may affect us in different ways depending upon whether we are using them or not. We introduce a time-based model in which utility is affected both by goods that one is using and by some that one is not, with the nonuse utility potentially either positive or negative. We explore the implications of findings from psychology suggesting that excessive choice may lead to negative effect, as well as the effects that optimistic estimates of time available for consumption (“planning fallacy”) have on this model. This extension has implications for explaining observations such as the very low marginal utility of income in post-industrial societies (modified Easterlin Paradox), as well as the counterintuitive success many individuals have reported with voluntary simplicity.
Advisor: David Courard-Hauri