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Heuristic Thinking and Limited Attention in the Car Market

Author

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

Abstract

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)

Suggested Citation

  • Nicola Lacetera & Devin G. Pope & Justin R. Sydnor, 2012. "Heuristic Thinking and Limited Attention in the Car Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 2206-2236, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:5:p:2206-36
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • L62 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Automobiles; Other Transportation Equipment; Related Parts and Equipment

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    1. Heuristic Thinking and Limited Attention in the Car Market (AER 2012) in ReplicationWiki

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