How to become more patient - add a zero
Remember when your mum or dad would tell you not to have those sweets now because it would ruin your dinner? It turns out they had a pretty good idea of how to deal with intertemporal trade-offs.
Making decisions on what to do now that will affect our future are an everyday occurrence. Most of our decisions are intertemporal choices, ranging from the person on a diet agonising over a cream bun to the world’s scientists and leaders convening every year to agonise over the problem of climate change.
Should we buy an expensive TV now or put the money into our pension plan? Shall I have children now or build up my career and then have children? Should we have more cheap flights now or reduce the number of planes to lower climate temperatures in the future?
These are intertemporal trade-offs and despite economics teaching us we should weigh up the options, calculating the benefits between the two points in time and choosing the most beneficial, we don’t always do this in a way that is best for us, or for society.
Instead experiments have shown time and again that we have no patience and pick the tempting offer available to us now – ie eating the cream bun even though we are on a diet.