Optimal indolence: A normative microscopic approach to work and leisure

Ritwik K. Niyogi, Yannick Andre Breton, Rebecca B. Solomon, Kent Conover, Peter Shizgal, Peter Dayan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Dividing limited time between work and leisure when both have their attractions is a common everyday decision. We provide a normative controltheoretic treatment of this decision that bridges economic and psychological accounts. We show how our framework applies to free-operant behavioural experiments in which subjects are required to work (depressing a lever) for sufficient total time (called the price) to receive a reward. When the microscopic benefit-of-leisure increases nonlinearly with duration, the model generates behaviour that qualitatively matches various microfeatures of subjects' choices, including the distribution of leisure bout durations as a function of the payoff. We relate our model to traditional accounts by deriving macroscopic, molar, quantities from microscopic choices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20130969
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number91
StatePublished - Feb 6 2014


  • Economics
  • Leisure
  • Microscopic
  • Normative
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Work


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