The Impact of Soft Traits and Cognitive Abilities on Life Outcomes: Subjective Wellbeing, Education Achievement, and Rational Choices: a Chocolate Tasting Experiment

Savastano Sara
CEIS Research Paper
Linking to a growing literature in behavioral economics, this study combines neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics to empirically analyze the extent to which academic achievement, the relative weight of rationality vs. fairness in decision-making, and life satisfaction are affected by cognitive ability, persistent personality traits, and short-term stimuli based on psychological priming techniques. Prior to undertaking a course exam and playing the role of the respondent in an ultimatum game, a group of Masters and PhD students were stimulated either emotionally (via chocolate tasting) or rationally (via mathematical problem solving). Results show that, in addition to rational skills, short term stimuli and persistent personality traits have a significant impact on academic performance. They also influence the extent to which decisions are affected by notions of rationality and fairness and individuals’ subjective satisfaction with life. Given the economic importance of the associated outcomes, this opens up an important research agenda.
Number: 241
Keywords: Neuroeconomics, Psychology and Behavioral Economics, Satisfaction with life, Rational Choices, Consumer Theory
JEL codes: C91, D01, D87, D60, I20
Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Revision Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2012