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  1. George Ainslie (forthcoming). Freud and Picoeconomics. Behaviorism.
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  2. George Ainslie (2014). Selfish Goals Must Compete for the Common Currency of Reward. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 37 (2):135-136.
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  3. George Ainslie (2013). Cold Climates Demand More Intertemporal Self-Control Than Warm Climates. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (5):481-482.
    A climate that is too cold to grow crops for part of the year demands foresight and self-control skills. To the extent that a culture has developed intertemporal bargaining, its members will have more autonomy, but pay the cost of being more compulsive, than members of societies that have not. Monetary resources will be a consequence but will also be fed back as a cause.
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  4. George Ainslie (2013). Grasping the Impalpable: The Role of Endogenous Reward in Choices, Including Process Addictions. Inquiry 56 (5):446 - 469.
    ABSTRACT The list of proposed addictions has recently grown to include television, videogames, shopping, day trading, kleptomania, and use of the Internet. These activities share with a more established entry, gambling, the property that they require no delivery of a biological stimulus that might be thought to unlock a hardwired brain process. I propose a framework for analyzing that class of incentives that do not depend on the prediction of physically privileged environmental events: people have a great capacity to coin (...)
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  5. George Ainslie (2013). Intertemporal Bargaining Predicts Moral Behavior, Even in Anonymous, One-Shot Economic Games. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (1):78 - 79.
    To the extent that acting fairly is in an individual's long-term interest, short-term impulses to cheat present a self-control problem. The only effective solution is to interpret the problem as a variant of repeated prisoner's dilemma, with each choice as a test case predicting future choices. Moral choice appears to be the product of a contract because it comes from self-enforcing intertemporal cooperation.
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  6. George Ainslie (2013). Monotonous Tasks Require Self-Control Because They Interfere with Endogenous Reward. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 36 (6):679-680.
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  7. George Ainslie (2012). Pure Hyperbolic Discount Curves Predict “Eyes Open” Self-Control. Theory and Decision 73 (1):3-34.
    The models of internal self-control that have recently been proposed by behavioral economists do not depict motivational interaction that occurs while temptation is present. Those models that include willpower at all either envision a faculty with a motivation (“strength”) different from the motives that are weighed in the marketplace of choice, or rely on incompatible goals among diverse brain centers. Both assumptions are questionable, but these models’ biggest problem is that they do not let resolutions withstand re-examination while being challenged (...)
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  8. George Ainslie, Christian P. Müller & Gunter Schumann (2011). Drugs' Rapid Payoffs Distort Evaluation of Their Instrumental Uses1. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (6):311.
    Science has needed a dispassionate valuation of psychoactive drugs, but a motivational analysis should be conducted with respect to long-term reward rather than reproductive fitness. Because of hyperbolic overvaluation of short-term rewards, an individual's valuation depends on the time she forms it and the times she will revisit it, sometimes making her best long-term interest lie in total abstinence.
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  9. George Ainslie (2010). Procrastination, the Basic Impulse. In Chrisoula Andreou Mark D. White (ed.), The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination. Oxford. 11--27.
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  10. George Ainslie (2009). Pleasure and Aversion: Challenging the Conventional Dichotomy. Inquiry 52 (4):357 – 377.
    Philosophy and its descendents in the behavioral sciences have traditionally divided incentives into those that are sought and those that are avoided. Positive incentives are held to be both attractive and memorable because of the direct effects of pleasure. Negative incentives are held to be unattractive but still memorable (the problem of pain) because they force unpleasant emotions on an individual by an unmotivated process, either a hardwired response (unconditioned response) or one substituted by association (conditioned response). Negative incentives are (...)
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  11. George Ainslie, Ryan T. McKay & Daniel C. Dennett (2009). Non-Instrumental Belief is Largely Founded on Singularity 1. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (6):511.
    The radical evolutionary step that divides human decision-making from that of nonhumans is the ability to excite the reward process for its own sake, in imagination. Combined with hyperbolic over-valuation of the present, this ability is a potential threat to both the individual's long term survival and the natural selection of high intelligence. Human belief is intrinsically or under-founded, which may or may not be adaptive.
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  12. George Ainslie (2008). Vulnerabilities to Addiction Must Have Their Impact Through the Common Currency of Discounted Reward. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (4):438-439.
    The ten vulnerabilities discussed in the target article vary in their likelihood of producing temporary preference for addictive activities automatic” habits discussed here.
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  13. George Ainslie (2007). Can Thought Experiments Prove Anything About the Will. In Don Ross, David Spurrett, Harold Kincaid & G. Lynn Stephens (eds.), Distributed Cognition and the Will: Individual Volition and Social Context. Mit Press.
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  14. George Ainslie (2007). Foresight has to Pay Off in the Present Moment. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (3):313-314.
    Foresight requires not only scenarios constructed from memories, but also adequate incentive to let these scenarios compete with current rewards. This incentive probably comes from the efficacy of the scenarios in occasioning present emotions, which depends not on their accuracy per se but on their uniqueness as compared with other possible occasions for emotion.
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  15. George Ainslie (2007). Game Theory Can Build Higher Mental Processes From Lower Ones. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (1):16-18.
    The question of reductionism is an obstacle to unification. Many behavioral scientists who study the more complex or higher mental functions avoid regarding them as selected by motivation. Game-theoretic models in which complex processes grow from the strategic interaction of elementary reward-seeking processes can overcome the mechanical feel of earlier reward-based models. Three examples are briefly described. (Published Online April 27 2007).
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  16. George Ainslie (2006). Cruelty May Be a Self-Control Device Against Sympathy. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (3):224-225.
    Dispassionate cruelty and the euphoria of hunting or battle should be distinguished from the emotional savoring of victims' suffering. Such savoring, best called negative empathy, is what puzzles motivational theory. Hyperbolic discounting theory suggests that sympathy with people who have unwanted but seductive traits creates a threat to self-control. Cruelty to those people may often be the least effortful way of countering this threat.
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  17. George Ainslie (2006). What Good Are Facts? The “Drug” Value of Money as an Exemplar of All Non-Instrumental Value. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 29 (2):176-177.
    An emotional value for money is clearly demonstrable beyond its value for getting goods, but this value need not be ascribed to human preparedness for altruism or play. Emotion is a motivated process, and our temptation to “overgraze” positive emotions selects for emotional patterns that are paced by adequately rare occasions. As a much-competed-for tool, money makes an excellent occasion for emotional reward – a prize with value beyond its tool value – but this is true also of the other (...)
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  18. George Ainslie (2005). A Bazaar of Opinions Mostly Fit Within Picoeconomics. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (5):664-670.
    The will has generated a wider range of opinions than most phenomena, lacking as it does both an animal model and consistent behavioral correlates. It has even been held not to exist. The commentators approached my intertemporal bargaining (picoeconomic) model from many angles. Doubts about the existence of the underlying phenomenon, hyperbolic discounting, were still raised by some, but other commentators added to the evidence for it, which I regard now as overwhelming. Where mechanisms of self-control were specified, I found (...)
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  19. George Ainslie (2005). Précis of Breakdown of Will. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (5):635-650.
    Behavioral science has long been puzzled by the experience of temptation, the resulting impulsiveness, and the variably successful control of this impulsiveness. In conventional theories, a governing faculty like the ego evaluates future choices consistently over time, discounting their value for delay exponentially, that is, by a constant rate; impulses arise when this ego is confronted by a conditioned appetite. Breakdown of Will (Ainslie 2001) presents evidence that contradicts this model. Both people and nonhuman animals spontaneously discount the value of (...)
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  20. George Ainslie (2005). You Can't Give Permission to Be a Bastard: Empathy and Self-Signaling as Uncontrollable Independent Variables in Bargaining Games. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (6):815-816.
    Canonical utility theory may have adopted its selfishness postulate because it lacked theoretical rationales for two major kinds of incentive: empathic utility and self-signaling. Empathy – using vicarious experiences to occasion your emotions – gives these experiences market value as a means of avoiding the staleness of self-generated emotion. Self-signaling is inevitable in anyone trying to overcome a perceived character flaw. Hyperbolic discounting of future reward supplies incentive mechanisms for both empathic utility and self-signaling. Neither can be effectively suppressed (...)
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  21. George Ainslie & John Monterosso (2005). Why Not Emotions as Motivated Behaviors? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (2):194-195.
    Lewis's dynamic systems approach is a refreshing change from the reflexology of most neuroscience, but it could go a step further: It could include the expected rewardingness of an emotion in the recursive feedback loop that determines whether the emotion will occur. Two possible objections to such a model are discussed: that emotions are not deliberate, and that negative emotions should lose out as instrumental choices.
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  22. George Ainslie (2004). Gods Are More Flexible Than Resolutions. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (6):730-731.
    The target article proposes that “counterintuitive beliefs in supernatural agents” are shaped by cognitive factors and survive because they foster empathic concern and counteract existential dread. I argue that they are shaped by motivational forces similar to those that shape our beliefs about other people; that empathic concern is rewarded in a more elementary fashion; and that a major function of these supernatural beliefs may be to provide a more flexible alternative to autonomous willpower in controlling not only dread but (...)
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  23. George Ainslie (2004). The Self is Virtual, the Will is Not Illusory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (5):659-660.
    Wegner makes an excellent case that our sense of ownership of our actions depends on multiple factors, to such an extent that it could be called virtual or even illusory. However, two other core functions of will are initiation of movement and maintenance of resolution, which depend on our accurate monitoring of them. This book shows that will is not an imponderable black box but, rather, an increasingly accessible set of specific functions.
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  24. John Monterosso & George Ainslie (2003). Game Theory Need Not Abandon Individual Maximization. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26 (2):171-171.
    Colman proposes that the domain of interpersonal choice requires an alternative and nonindividualistic conception of rationality. However, the anomalies he catalogues can be accounted for with less radical departures from orthodox rational choice theory. In particular, we emphasize the need for descriptive and prescriptive rationality to incorporate recursive interplay between one's own choices and one's expectation regarding others' choices.
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  25. George Ainslie & Nick Haslam (2002). Altruism is a Primary Impulse, Not a Discipline. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (2):251-251.
    Intertemporal bargaining theory based on the hyperbolic discounting of expected rewards accounts for how choosing in categories increases self-control, without postulating, as Rachlin does, the additional rewardingness of patterns per se. However, altruism does not seem to be based on self-control, but on the primary rewardingness of vicarious experience. We describe a mechanism that integrates vicarious experience with other goods of limited availability.
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  26. George Ainslie (2001). Breakdown of Will. Cambridge University Press.
    Ainslie argues that our responses to the threat of our own inconsistency determine the basic fabric of human culture. He suggests that individuals are more like populations of bargaining agents than like the hierarchical command structures envisaged by cognitive psychologists. The forces that create and constrain these populations help us understand so much that is puzzling in human action and interaction: from addictions and other self-defeating behaviors to the experience of willfulness, from pathological over-control and self-deception to subtler forms of (...)
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  27. George Ainslie & John Monterosso (2001). Hyperbolic Discounting Lets Empathy Be a Motivated Process. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (1):20-21.
    The Perception-Action Model (PAM) is a cogent theory of how organisms get information about others' experiences. However, such a stimulus-driven mechanism does not handle well the complex choices that humans face about how to respond to this information. Hyperbolic reward discounting permits a reward-driven mechanism for both how aversive empathic experiences can compete for attention and how pleasurable empathic experiences are constrained.
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  28. George Ainslie (1997). If Belief is a Behavior, What Controls It? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 20 (1):103-104.
    “Self-deception” usually occurs when a false belief would be more rewarding than an objective belief in the short run, but less rewarding in the long run. Given hyperbolic discounting of delayed events, people will be motivated in their long-range interest to create self-enforcing rules for testing reality, and in their long-range interest to evade these rules. Self-deception, then, resembles interpersonal deception in being an evasion of rules, but differs in being a product of intertemporal conflict.
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  29. George Ainslie & Barbara Gault (1997). Intention Isn't Indivisible. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 20 (2):365-366.
    An intertemporal bargaining model of commitment does not entail the interaction of parts within the person as Rachlin claims, and is needed to explain properties of self-control that his molar generalization model does not predict.
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  30. George Ainslie (1996). How Do People Choose Between Local and Global Bookkeeping? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 19 (4):574.
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  31. George Ainslie (1993). A Picoeconomic Rationale for Social Constructionism. Behavior and Philosophy 21 (2):63 - 75.
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  32. George Ainslie (1988). Matching is the Integrating Framework. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 11 (4):679.
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  33. George Ainslie (1985). Behavior is What Can Be Reinforced. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 8 (1):53-54.
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