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Leftmost-digit-bias in an enumerated public sector? An experiment on citizens' judgment of performance information

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  • Asmus Leth Olsen
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    Abstract

    Numerical performance information is increasingly important to political decision-making in the public sector. Some have suggested that biases in citizens' processing of numerical information can be exploited by politicians to skew citizens' perception of performance. I report on an experiment on how citizens evaluate numerical performance information from a public school context. The experiment is conducted with a large and diverse sample of the Danish population (N=1156). The analysis shows a strong leftmost-digit-bias in citizens' evaluation of school grading information. Thus, very small changes in reported average grades, which happen to shift the leftmost grade digit, can lead to very large shifts in citizens' evaluation of performance. The rightmost digit on the grade is almost fully ignored.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Society for Judgment and Decision Making in its journal Judgment and Decision Making.

    Volume (Year): 8 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 3 (May)
    Pages: 365-371

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    Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:8:y:2013:i:3:p:365-371

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    Related research

    Keywords: leftmost-digit-bias; cognitive biases; performance information.;

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    1. Nicola Lacetera & Devin G. Pope & Justin R. Sydnor, 2011. "Heuristic Thinking and Limited Attention in the Car Market," NBER Working Papers 17030, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2007. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 13330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 5.
    4. Thomas L. Brunell & Amihai Glazer, 2001. "Rational Response to Irrational Attitudes: The Level of the Gasoline Tax in the United States," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(4), pages 761-764.
    5. Asmus Olsen, 2013. "The politics of digits: evidence of odd taxation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 154(1), pages 59-73, January.
    6. Ashworth, John & Heyndels, Bruno & Smolders, Carine, 2003. "Psychological taxing in Flemish municipalities," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 741-762, December.
    7. Pope, Devin G., 2009. "Reacting to rankings: Evidence from "America's Best Hospitals"," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 1154-1165, December.
    8. Amy Finkelstein, 2009. "E-ZTAX: Tax Salience and Tax Rates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 969-1010, August.
    9. Schindler, Robert M & Kirby, Patrick N, 1997. " Patterns of Rightmost Digits Used in Advertised Prices: Implications for Nine-Ending Effects," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 192-201, September.
    10. Ellen Peters & Paul Slovic & Daniel Vastfjall & C. K. Mertz, 2008. "Intuitive numbers guide decisions," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 3(8), pages 619-635, December.
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