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Learning from the Behavior of Others: Conformity, Fads, and Informational Cascades

  • Sushil Bikhchandani
  • David Hirshleifer
  • Ivo Welch

Learning by observing the past decisions of others can help explain some otherwise puzzling phenomena about human behavior. For example, why do people tend to converge on similar behavior? Why is mass behavior prone to error and fads? The authors argue that the theory of observational learning, and particularly of informational cascades, has much to offer economics, business strategy, political science, and the study of criminal behavior.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.12.3.151
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 12 (1998)
Issue (Month): 3 (Summer)
Pages: 151-170

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:12:y:1998:i:3:p:151-70
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.12.3.151
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  1. Abhijit Banerjee & Drew Fudenberg, 2010. "Word of Mouth Learning," Levine's Working Paper Archive 723, David K. Levine.
  2. Caplin, Andrew & Leahy, John, 1994. "Business as Usual, Market Crashes, and Wisdom after the Fact," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 548-65, June.
  3. Arthur, W Brian, 1989. "Competing Technologies, Increasing Returns, and Lock-In by Historical Events," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(394), pages 116-31, March.
  4. Choi, J.P., 1994. "Herd behavior, the "Penguin effect", and the suppression of informational diffusion : An analysis of informational externalities and payoff interdependency," Discussion Paper 1994-62, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  5. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1995. "Crime and Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 5026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Richard J. Gilbert & Marvin Lieberman, 1987. "Investment and Coordination in Oligopolistic Industries," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(1), pages 17-33, Spring.
  7. Smith, L. & Sorensen, P., 1996. "Pathological Outcomes of Observational Learning," Working papers 96-19, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  8. Gul, Faruk & Lundholm, Russell, 1995. "Endogenous Timing and the Clustering of Agents' Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 1039-66, October.
  9. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 2010. "A theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom and cultural change as informational Cascades," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1193, David K. Levine.
  10. Lisa R. Anderson & Charles A. Holt, 1996. "Classroom Games: Information Cascades," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 187-193, Fall.
  11. Timur Kuran, 1989. "Sparks and prairie fires: A theory of unanticipated political revolution," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 61(1), pages 41-74, April.
  12. Vives, Xavier, 1993. "How Fast Do Rational Agents Learn?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(2), pages 329-47, April.
  13. 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.
  14. Kenneth Hendricks & Dan Kovenock, 1989. "Asymmetric Information, Information Externalities, and Efficiency: The Case of Oil Exploration," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 20(2), pages 164-182, Summer.
  15. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
  16. Jianbo Zhang, 1997. "Strategic Delay and the Onset of Investment Cascades," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(1), pages 188-205, Spring.
  17. Welch, Ivo, 1992. " Sequential Sales, Learning, and Cascades," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 47(2), pages 695-732, June.
  18. Khanna, Naveen, 1998. "Optimal Contracting with Moral Hazard and Cascading," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 11(3), pages 559-96.
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