NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Memory, Attention, and Choice

Pedro Bordalo, Nicola Gennaioli, Andrei Shleifer

NBER Working Paper No. 23256
Issued in March 2017
NBER Program(s):The Asset Pricing Program

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).

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23256

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