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Correlation Neglect in Belief Formation

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  • Benjamin Enke
  • Florian Zimmermann

Abstract

Many information structures generate correlated rather than mutually independent signals, the news media being a prime example. This paper shows experimentally that in such contexts many people neglect these correlations in the updating process and treat correlated information as independent. In consequence, people’s beliefs are excessively sensitive to well-connected information sources, implying a pattern of “overshooting” beliefs. Additionally, in an experimental asset market, correlation neglect not only drives overoptimism and overpessimism at the individual level, but also affects aggregate outcomes in a systematic manner. In particular, the excessive confidence swings caused by correlated signals give rise to predictable price bubbles and crashes. These findings are reminiscent of popular narratives according to which aggregate booms and busts might be driven by the spread of “stories”. Our results also lend direct support to recent models of boundedly rational social learning.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4483.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4483

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Keywords: beliefs; correlation neglect; experiments; markets; overshooting;

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References

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  1. Brian D. Kluger & Steve B. Wyatt, 2004. "Are Judgment Errors Reflected in Market Prices and Allocations? Experimental Evidence Based on the Monty Hall Problem," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(3), pages 969-998, 06.
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  3. Grebe, Tim & Schmid, Julia & Stiehler, Andreas, 2006. "Do individuals recognize cascade behavior of others? An Experimental Study," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 180, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  4. Oechssler, Jörg & Roider, Andreas & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2009. "Cognitive abilities and behavioral biases," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 147-152, October.
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  6. George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
  7. Gneezy, U. & Kapteyn, A. & Potters, J.J.M., 2002. "Evaluation Periods and Asset Prices in a Market Experiment," Discussion Paper 2002-8, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
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  10. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  11. Camerer, Colin F, 1987. "Do Biases in Probability Judgment Matter in Markets? Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 981-97, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Pietro Ortoleva & Erik Snowberg, 2013. "Overconfidence in Political Behavior," NBER Working Papers 19250, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Bormann, Sven-Kristjan, 2013. "Sentiment indices on financial markets: What do they measure?," Economics Discussion Papers 2013-58, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

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