Carnegie Mellon University
Chuanye (Jack) Chen headshot

Chuanye (Jack) Chen

Advisor: Gretchen Chapman
Majors: Behavioral Economics, Policy, and Organizations; Decision Science
Minor: Global Systems and Management

Scope and rigidity of mental accounts: how branded gift cards both alter and protect consumer preferences

Mental accounts are psychological “budgets” that people set up to regulate their income and consumptions even in the absence of physical constraints. Extant studies have investigated the impact on consumer spending such as under-consumptions of luxuries due to the presence of these psychological self-regulation devices. However, little is known about how changing the scope of mental accounts will distort preferences. Chuanye Chen’s study provides participants with labeled and branded gift cards to invoke goal-derived mental accounts with different scopes under a scenario-based hypothetical shopping design. Examining changes in preferences for product types and expenditure amounts under different conditions will shed light on the structural properties of involuntarily induced mental accounts. These knowledge helps consumers and households to better understand their own spending and while also allowing businesses to implement effective marketing strategies. 


Chuanye (Jack) Chen is fascinated with how humans (especially consumers) behave rationally in the real world rather than what economists say they should do. Being a rapacious reader in philosophy of economics and social sciences since freshman year at CMU, he found his undergrad life so monotonous and boring that could only be salvaged through an exchange study in Japan. There, he ignited his interests in behavioral economics while studying under a Japanese behavioral economist and moral philosopher. Jack also enjoys fine dining and city walks; he is very proud of the fact that he has visited even more restaurants in Tokyo than the number of books he has read.