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Open Access Publications from the University of California

When Does Past Trauma Matter for Present Decision-making? Evidence from a Field Study on Myopia and Waiting Periods

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We document the relationship between prior exposure to violence and myopia using a field experiment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We endow study participants with an asset that grows over time, and find that direct exposure to violence during the Congolese wars strongly predicts redemption of the asset for its minimum value only if participants can redeem their asset on the same day they receive it. When we mandate an overnight waiting period before redemption is allowed (and before the asset begins to grow), there is no difference in myopic behavior by exposure to violence. Our results suggest that choice architecture is particularly important for vulnerable populations, even within a developing-country sample. 

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