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We present a model of credit cycles arising from diagnostic expectations – a belief formation mechanism based on Kahneman and Tversky’s (1972) representativeness heuristic. In this formulation, when forming their beliefs agents overweight future outcomes that have become more likely in light of incoming data. The model reconciles extrapolation and neglect of risk in a unified framework. Diagnostic expectations are forward looking, and as such are immune to the Lucas critique and nest rational expectations as a special case. In our model of credit cycles, credit spreads are excessively volatile, over-react to news, and are subject to predictable reversals. These dynamics can account for several features of credit cycles and macroeconomic volatility.
We present a model of market competition in which consumers' attention is drawn to the products' most salient attributes. Firms compete for consumer attention via their choices of quality and price. Strategic positioning of a product affects how all other products are perceived. With this attention externality, depending on the cost of producing quality some markets exhibit "commoditized" price salient equilibria, while others exhibit "de-commoditized" quality salient equilibria. When the costs of quality change, innovation can lead to radical shifts in markets, as in the case of decommoditization of the coffee market by Starbucks. In the context of financial innovation, the model generates the phenomenon of "reaching for yield".
We present a model of stereotypes based on Kahneman and Tversky’s representative-ness heuristic. A decision maker assesses a target group by overweighting its representativetypes, defined as the types that occur more frequently in that group than in a baseline ref-erence group. Stereotypes formed in this way contain a “kernel of truth”: they are rooted intrue differences between groups. Because stereotypes focus on differences, they cause beliefdistortions, particularly when groups are similar. Stereotypes are also context dependent:beliefs about a group depend on the characteristics of the reference group. In line with ourpredictions, beliefs in the lab about abstract groups and beliefs in the field about politicalgroups are context dependent and distorted in the direction of representative types
We present a model of judicial decision making in which the judge overweights the salient facts of the case. The context of the judicial decision, which is comparative by nature, shapes which aspects of the case stand out and draw the judge's attention. By focusing judicial attention on such salient aspects of the case, legally irrelevant information can effect judicial decisions. Our model accounts for a range of recent experimental evidence bearing on the psychology of judicial decisions, including anchoring effects in the setting of damages, decoy effects in choice of legal remedies, and framing effects in the decision to litigate. The model also offers a new approach to positive analysis of damage awards in torts.
We present a simple model of asset pricing in which payoff salience drives investors' demand for risky assets. The key implication is that extreme payoffs receive disproportionate weight in the market valuation of assets. The model accounts for several puzzles in finance in an intuitive way, including preference for assets with a chance of very high payoffs, an aggregate equity premium, and countercyclical variation in stock market returns.
We present a theory of context-dependent choice in which a consumer's attention is drawn to salient attributes of goods, such as quality or price. An attribute is salient for a good when it stands out among the good's characteristics, in the precise sense of being furthest away in that good from its average level in the choice set (or more generally, an evoked set). A local thinker chooses among goods by attaching disproportionately high weights to their salient attributes. When goods are characterized by only one quality attribute and price, salience tilts choices toward goods with higher ratios of quality to price. We use the model to account for a variety of disparate bits of evidence, including decoy effects in consumer choice, context-dependent willingness to pay, balance of qualities in desirable goods, and shifts in demand toward low quality goods when all prices in a category rise. We then apply the model to study discounts and sales, and to explain demand for low deductible insurance.
We provide a novel account of experimental evidence for the endowment effect using the salience mechanism (Bordalo, Gennaioli, and Shleifer, 2011). The two-stage procedure implemented in experiments implies that the endowed good and other goods are evaluated in different contexts. We describe conditions under which the standard effect occurs, but also account for recent evidence such as a reverse endowment effect for bads and a role for reference prices in modulating the WTA-WTP gap.
We present a theory of choice among lotteries in which the decision maker's attention is drawn to (precisely defined) salient payoffs. This leads the decision maker to a context-dependent representation of lotteries in which true probabilities are replaced by decision weights distorted in favor of salient payoffs. By endogenizing decision weights as a function of payoffs, our model provides a novel and unified account of many empirical phenomena, including frequent risk-seeking behavior, invariance failures such as the Allais paradox, and preference reversals. It also yields new predictions, including some that distinguish it from Prospect Theory, which we test. We also use the model to modify the standard asset pricing framework, and use that application to explore the well-known growth/value anomaly in finance.
We present a theory in which the choice set cues a consumer to recall a norm, and surprise relative to the norm shapes his attention and choice. We model memory based on Kahana (2012), where past experiences that are more recent or more similar to the cue are recalled and crowd out others. We model surprise relative to the norm using our salience model of attention and choice. The model predicts unstable and inconsistent behavior in new contexts, because these are evaluated relative to past norms. Under some conditions, repeated experience causes norms to adapt, inducing stable – sometimes rational – behavior across different contexts. We test some of the model’s predictions using an expanded data set on rental decisions of movers between US cities first analyzed by Simonsohn and Loewenstein (2006).
We conduct a laboratory experiment on the determinants of beliefs about own and others’ ability across different domains. A preliminary look at the data points to two distinct forces: miscalibration in estimating performance depending on the difficulty of tasks and gender stereotypes. We develop a theoretical model that separates these forces and apply it to analyze a large laboratory dataset in which participants estimate their own and a partner’s performance on questions across six subjects: arts and literature, emotion recognition, business, verbal reasoning, mathematics, and sports. We find that participants greatly overestimate not only their own ability but also that of others, suggesting that miscalibration is a substantial, first order factor in stated beliefs. Women are better calibrated than men, providing more accurate estimates of ability both for themselves and for others. Gender stereotypes also have strong predictive power for beliefs, particularly for men’s beliefs about themselves and others’ beliefs about the ability of men. Our findings help interpret evidence on gender gaps in self-confidence.