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Learning through Noticing: Theory and Experimental Evidence in Farming

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  • Hanna, Rema

    (Harvard University)

  • Mullainathan, Sendhil

    (Harvard University)

  • Schwartzstein, Joshua

    (Dartmouth College)

Abstract

Existing learning models attribute failures to learn to a lack of data. We model a different barrier. Given the large number of dimensions one could focus on when using a technology, people may fail to learn because they failed to notice important features of the data they possess. We conduct a field experiment with seaweed farmers to test a model of "learning through noticing." We find evidence of a failure to notice: On some dimensions, farmers do not even know the value of their own input. Interestingly, trials show that these dimensions are the ones that farmers fail to optimize. Furthermore, consistent with the model, we find that simply having access to the experimental data does not induce learning. Instead, farmers change behavior only when presented with summaries that highlight the overlooked dimensions. We also draw out the implications of learning through noticing for technology adoption, agricultural extension, and the meaning of human capital.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp12-044.

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Date of creation: Oct 2012
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp12-044

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  1. Timothy G. Conley & Christopher R. Udry, 2010. "Learning about a New Technology: Pineapple in Ghana," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 35-69, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Esther Duflo & Pascaline Dupas & Juliette Seban & Elise Huillery, 2012. "Impacts of School-Based HIV Education on Reported Behavior and Knowledge of Adolescent Girls, Evidence from Cameroon," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/7o52iohb7k6, Sciences Po.
  2. Beaman, Lori & Magruder, Jeremy & Robinson, Jonathan, 2014. "Minding small change among small firms in Kenya," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 69-86.
  3. Fafchamps, Marcel & McKenzie, David & Quinn, Simon & Woodruff, Christopher, 2014. "Microenterprise growth and the flypaper effect: Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 211-226.
  4. C. Kirabo Jackson & Henry S. Schneider, 2013. "Reducing Moral Hazard in Employment Relationships: Experimental Evidence on Managerial Control and Performance Pay," NBER Working Papers 19645, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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