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What Motivates Paternalism? An Experimental Study

Sandro Ambuehl, Axel Ockenfels

American Economic Review 111(3), 2021, 787-830

We study experimentally when, why, and how people intervene in others' choices. Choice Architects (CAs) construct opportunity sets containing bundles of time-indexed payments for Choosers. CAs frequently prevent impatient choices despite opportunities to provide advice, believing Choosers benefit. They violate common behavioral welfare criteria by removing impatient options even when all payoffs are delayed. CAs intervene not by removing options they wish they could resist when choosing for themselves (mistakes-projective paternalism), but rather as if they seek to align others' choices with their own aspirations (ideals-projective paternalism). Laboratory choices predict subjects' support for actual paternalistic policies.

Research Fields : 
Behavioral Economics
Experimental Economics
Game Theory (Applied)
Political Economy
Positive Welfare Economics
Public Economics
Social Preferences