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Advertising as a Distortion of Social Learning

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Author Info

  • Brekke, Kjell Arne

    ()
    (The Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research)

  • Rege, Mari

    ()
    (University of Stavanger)

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    Abstract

    By combining a theory of herding behavior with the phenomenon of availability heuristic, this paper shows that non-informative advertisements can affect people’s choices by influencing their perception of product quality. We present a model in which people can learn about product quality by observing the choices of others. Consumers are, however, not able to fully distinguish between the observations of real people and fictitious characters in advertisements. Even if a person is aware of this limitation and updates his beliefs accordingly, it is still rational for him to choose the product he has observed most often. In equilibrium the most observed product is always most likely to be of the highest quality. The analysis has important policy implications.

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    File URL: http://www.sv.uio.no/econ/english/research/memorandum/pdf-files/2006/Memo-23-2006.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Oslo University, Department of Economics in its series Memorandum with number 23/2006.

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    Length: 22 pages
    Date of creation: 14 Nov 2006
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:hhs:osloec:2006_023

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: Department of Economics, University of Oslo, P.O Box 1095 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway
    Phone: 22 85 51 27
    Fax: 22 85 50 35
    Email:
    Web page: http://www.oekonomi.uio.no/indexe.html
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    Related research

    Keywords: Advertising; availability heuristic; herding behavior; information; product quality;

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    References

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    1. Bagwell, Kyle & Riordan, Michael H, 1991. "High and Declining Prices Signal Product Quality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 224-39, March.
    2. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Hirshleifer, David & Welch, Ivo, 1992. "A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change in Informational Cascades," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 992-1026, October.
    3. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
    4. Chan, Yuk-Shee & Leland, Hayne, 1982. "Prices and Qualities in Markets with Costly Information," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 499-516, October.
    5. Albrecht, James & Lang, Harald & Vroman, Susan, 2002. "The effect of information on the well-being of the uninformed: what's the chance of getting a decent meal in an unfamiliar city?," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 139-162, February.
    6. Kwoka, John E, Jr, 1984. "Advertising and the Price and Quality of Optometric Services," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(1), pages 211-16, March.
    7. Paul R. Milgrom & John Roberts, 1984. "Price and Advertising Signals of Product Quality," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 709, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    8. Anderson, Lisa R & Holt, Charles A, 1997. "Information Cascades in the Laboratory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 847-62, December.
    9. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-41, August.
    10. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 1998. "Learning from the Behavior of Others: Conformity, Fads, and Informational Cascades," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 151-170, Summer.
    11. Nelson, Philip, 1974. "Advertising as Information," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(4), pages 729-54, July/Aug..
    12. Kihlstrom, Richard E & Riordan, Michael H, 1984. "Advertising as a Signal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 427-50, June.
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