Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Advances to Mental Accounting Theory: Evidence for Mental Stealing and Retroactive Malleable Mental Accounting
by Shah, Esta Denton, Ph.D., Northwestern University, 2015, 95; 3705358
Abstract (Summary)

Mental accounting, defined as the process whereby consumers code, categorize, and evaluate economic outcomes in the form of mental “budgets” (Thaler 1980; 1985), has been encouraged as a strategy to aid individuals in the regulation of finances and other resources. However, far less research has examined the pitfalls of mental accounting. Essay 1 investigates how mental accounting can lead to suboptimal decisions for others. We propose a novel hypothesis to understand an effect we term “mental stealing,” whereby mental accounts focus individuals on budgets so much that they forgo gifts that a gift-recipient would like. Essay 2 investigates how mental accounting for windfalls (i.e., unexpected gains in wealth) can lead to suboptimal spending on the self. We propose that expense categorizations are retroactively malleable, and can lead to overspending of windfalls. In total, the two essays of this dissertation enhance our study of consumer behavior by documenting new effects of mental accounts. And, in the process of documenting these new effects, this dissertation informs the mental accounting literature by identifying when mental accounting leads to suboptimal outcomes for both others and the self.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rucker, Derek D.
Commitee: Gal, David, Murnighan, Keith, Roese, Neal
School: Northwestern University
Department: Marketing
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 76/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Marketing
Keywords: Malleable mental accounting, Mental accounting, Mental stealing, Retroactive malleability, Windfalls
Publication Number: 3705358
ISBN: 9781321782943
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