Narrow Bracketing in Work Choices

Abstract

Many important economic outcomes result from cumulative effects of smaller choices, so the best outcomes require accounting for other choices at each decision point. We document narrow bracketing — the neglect of such accounting — in work choices in a pre-registered experiment on MTurk: bracketing changes average willingness to work by 13-28%. In our experiment, broad bracketing is so simple to implement that narrow bracketing cannot possibly be due to optimal conservation of cognitive resources, so it must be suboptimal. We jointly estimate disutility of work and bracketing, finding gender differences in convexity of disutility, but not in bracketing.