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Heuristic Thinking and Limited Attention in the Car Market

  • Nicola Lacetera
  • Devin G. Pope
  • Justin R. Sydnor

Can heuristic information processing affect important product markets? Analyzing over 22 million wholesale used-car transactions, we find evidence of left-digit bias in the processing of odometer values, whereby individuals focus on the number's leftmost digits. The bias leads to discontinuous drops in sale prices at 10,000-mile odometer thresholds, along with smaller drops at 1,000-mile thresholds. These findings reveal that information-processing heuristics matter even in markets with large stakes and easily observed information. We model left-digit bias in an inattention framework and structurally estimate the inattention parameter. Empirical patterns suggest the results are driven by final customers rather than professional agents. (JEL D12, D44, D83, L81)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 102 (2012)
Issue (Month): 5 (August)
Pages: 2206-36

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:5:p:2206-36
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  1. Stefano Dellavigna & Joshua M. Pollet, 2009. "Investor Inattention and Friday Earnings Announcements," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(2), pages 709-749, 04.
  2. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
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  9. Kaushik Basu, 2006. "Consumer Cognition and Pricing in the Nines in Oligopolistic Markets," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(1), pages 125-141, 03.
  10. Jennifer Brown & Tanjim Hossain & John Morgan, 2010. "Shrouded Attributes and Information Suppression: Evidence from the Field," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(2), pages 859-876, May.
  11. John List & Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for altruism and social pressure in charitable giving," Natural Field Experiments 00137, The Field Experiments Website.
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  13. 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.
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