genstern, 1947; Savage, 1954) in which decisions are assumed to be made taking total assets or wealth into account. Hence, the use of mental accounts have important implications for how people make decisions. It has also implications for the understanding of saving behavior, suggesting that current income may be a more important factor than predicted from the life-cycle theory ( Modigliani & Brumberg, 1954).
One may ask to what extent the results from fictitious buying situations are possible to extend to real-life situations? On the one hand, one may expect participants to be more rational, in the sense of behaving in line with normative theory, when responding in situations with real outcomes. On the other hand, one may expect that people in real-life situations are influenced by other factors such as temptation and impulsiveness. Such factors could therefore decrease the effectiveness of mental accounts as a self-control device. Hence, the incentive to use mental accounts should be greater in real life but at the same time be less effective. It is reasonable to think that the pronounced use of mental accounts in the present studies also to some degree extend to real-life situations. Nevertheless, the important role of visceral factors ( Loewenstein, 1996) may be downplayed. An important task for future research is therefore to investigate how mental accounts and visceral factors interact in self-control strategies.
The authors' own research reported in this chapter was financially supported by grant #94-0086:2C from the Swedish Council for Social Research. We thank Peter Juslin and Henry Montgomery for valuable comments on a previous version.
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