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Relative Thinking Theory

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Author Info

  • Ofer H. Azar

    (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

Abstract

The article presents a theory that I denote “Relative Thinking Theory,” which claims that people consider relative differences and not only absolute differences when making various economics decisions, even in those cases where the rational model dictates that people should consider only absolute differences. The article reviews experimental evidence for this behavior, summarizing briefly several experiments I conducted, as well as some earlier related literature. It then discusses how we can think about relative thinking and formalize this behavior. Later, the article addresses several related questions: why do people exhibit relative thinking, whether it is beneficial to do so, and whether experience and education can change relative thinking. Finally, the article explains why firms seem to respond to relative thinking of consumers, and raises additional implications of relative thinking for economics and management.

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File URL: http://128.118.178.162/eps/mic/papers/0504/0504002.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Microeconomics with number 0504002.

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Length: 27 pages
Date of creation: 09 Apr 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:0504002

Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 27
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Web page: http://128.118.178.162

Related research

Keywords: Relative thinking; relative differences; behavioral decision making; behavioral economics; psychological economics; Weber's law; absolute differences; percentages; ratios;

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References

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  1. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  2. Richard H. Thaler, 2008. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(1), pages 15-25, 01-02.
  3. Azar, Ofer H., 2007. "Relative thinking theory," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 1-14, February.
  4. Moon, Philip & Keasey, Kevin & Duxbury, Darren, 1999. "Mental accounting and decision making:: The relationship between relative and absolute savings," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 145-153, February.
  5. Alan T. Sorensen, 2000. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion in Retail Markets for Prescription Drugs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 833-862, August.
  6. Frisch, Deborah, 1993. "Reasons for Framing Effects," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 399-429, April.
  7. Azar, Ofer H., 2009. "Do consumers make too much effort to save on cheap items and too little to save on expensive items? experimental results and implications for business strategy," MPRA Paper 20962, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Thaler, Richard, 1980. "Toward a positive theory of consumer choice," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 39-60, March.
  9. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
  10. Pratt, John W & Wise, David A & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1979. "Price Differences in Almost Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 189-211, May.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Azar, Ofer H., 2007. "Relative thinking theory," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 1-14, February.
  2. Pedro Bordalo & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2012. "Salience and Consumer Choice," Working Papers 463, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  3. Azar, Ofer H., 2011. "Do people think about absolute or relative price differences when choosing between substitute goods?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 450-457, June.
  4. Gennaioli, Nicola & Martin, Alberto & Rossi, Stefano, 2010. "Sovereign Default, Domestic Banks and Financial Institutions," CEPR Discussion Papers 7955, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Azar, Ofer H., 2009. "Do consumers make too much effort to save on cheap items and too little to save on expensive items? experimental results and implications for business strategy," MPRA Paper 20962, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Azar, Ofer H., 2007. "The effect of relative thinking on firm strategy and market outcomes: A location differentiation model with endogenous transportation costs," MPRA Paper 4455, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Lynn, Michael & Jabbour, Patrick & Kim, Woo Gon, 2012. "Who uses tips as a reward for service and when? An examination of potential moderators of the service–tipping relationship," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 90-103.
  8. Don J. Webber & Michael Horswell, 2009. "Microeconomic foundations of geographical variations in labour productivity," Working Papers 0913, Department of Accounting, Economics and Finance, Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol.
  9. Justine Hastings & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2012. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice: Evidence from Commodity Price Shocks," NBER Working Papers 18248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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