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I was just listening to some music and I found myself thinking about how I might measure the utility I experience from listening to it. I know there has been a lot of work done with measuring utility gained through altruism, but has there been any work done in economics (or any other fields) regarding measuring 'intangible utility'? Any references or methods would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

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    $\begingroup$ This does not have to intangible. Would you buy the right to listen to that music piece? What is the highest price you would be willing to pay for it? This reservation price is an accepted measure. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Nov 26 '15 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, but due to the problem of asymmetric information, how would we measure this (as economists)? I suppose you could ask someone, but they may not know/have an exact idea of their willingness to pay (as often people don't). Or they may believe that they have incentive to lie, so the response may be skewed due to moral hazard. $\endgroup$ – DornerA Nov 26 '15 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ You could make them actually buy it. If they make a bad decision even then, it cannot be done. If you do not assume rationality then there is no way to measure this but neuroscience. $\endgroup$ – Giskard Nov 26 '15 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ What really is tangible utility? $\endgroup$ – ChinG Nov 26 '15 at 20:20
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This is just a follow-up on denesp's comment. In economics, the utility is a tool used to represent choices, and therefore the right way of measuring the individual's utility from listening to the song is to elicit his willingness to pay for it. This can be done by a Becker-DeGroot-Marschak mechanism that eliminates moral hazard. Note that this refers to ex-ante anticipated utility.

The only way to look at actual experienced utility is to rely on other means of investigation, like neuro-imaging or survey questions, in the spirit of happiness research. But this is quite controversial, since the concept of experienced utility is itself poorly defined. Most economists would not agree to base welfare analysis on such measurements. You can have a look at happiness research (e.g. Deaton, Kimball, Benjamin, ...) if you want to learn more on this.

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