Perfectionism and Choice


  • Igor Kopylov

    1. Dept. of Economics, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, U.S.A.;
    Search for more papers by this author
    • I am grateful to Wolfgang Pesendorfer, Larry Epstein, Faruk Gul, Ami Glazer, Stephen Morris, Jawwad Noor, Kyoungwon Seo, Gary Richardson, Stergios Skaperdas, and anonymous referees for their comments and discussions.


Empirical evidence suggests that perfectionism can affect choice behavior. When striving for perfection, a person can desire to keep normatively appealing options feasible even if she persistently fails to use these options later. For instance, she can “pay not to go to the gym,” as in DellaVigna and Malmendier (2006). By contrast, some perfectionists may avoid normatively important tasks for fear of negative self-evaluation of their performance.

This paper models perfectionist behaviors in Gul and Pesendorfer's (2001) menu framework where agents may be tempted to deviate from their long-term normative objectives. In addition to self-control costs, I identify a utility component that reflects emotional costs and benefits of perfectionism. My model is derived from axioms imposed on preferences over menus in an essentially unique way.