Sunday, February 21, 2010

Upward sloping demand curves?

[HT: Tim Harford] Let's put this in the behavioural economics likely to go too far category. Here is a Dad who intends to pay his kids to play video games in an attempt to reduce the total time they spend playing video games.

There is no trick here. A straight out payment per unit of time spent. His theory is that his kids are intrinsically motivated to play video games and that there is some evidence that when you place a monetary reward on an activity with intrinsic motivation, it can actually demotivate. Now usually that is for stuff like working hard to help others out. It is not usually for something that is of private value. On those activities, surely normal economics will take over at there will likely be an increase and not a decrease in video game playing. That is definitely how it would work in our house.

But there is a caveat. If it works in concentrating gaming, it may turn out that the kids get sick of it quicker and it turns them off. We'll see. If it works, I'll let you know and will then try and conduct an experiment with my arguably more rational, economically minded children.