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Selective Attention And Learning

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  • Joshua Schwartzstein

Abstract

What do we notice and how does this affect what we learn and come to believe? I present a model of an agent who learns to make forecasts on the basis of readily available information, but is selective as to which information he attends to: he chooses whether to attend as a function of current beliefs about whether such information is predictive. If the agent does not attend to some piece of information, it cannot be recalled at a later date. He uses Bayes' rule to update his beliefs given attended-to information, but does not attempt to fill in missing information. The model demonstrates how selective attention may lead the agent to persistently fail to recognize important empirical regularities, make systematically biased forecasts, and hold incorrect beliefs about the statistical relationship between variables. In addition, it identifies factors that make such errors more likely or persistent. The model is applied to shed light on stereotyping and discrimination, persistent learning failures and disagreement, and the process of discovery.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua Schwartzstein, 2014. "Selective Attention And Learning," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(6), pages 1423-1452, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jeurec:v:12:y:2014:i:6:p:1423-1452
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1111/jeea.12104
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Victor Stango & Joanne Yoong & Jonathan Zinman, 2017. "Quicksand or Bedrock for Behavioral Economics? Assessing Foundational Empirical Questions," NBER Working Papers 23625, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Emmanuel Farhi & Xavier Gabaix, 2015. "Optimal Taxation with Behavioral Agents," Working Paper 305366, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    3. repec:aea:aejmic:v:9:y:2017:i:2:p:54-75 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Pedro Bordalo & Katherine Coffman & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2016. "Stereotypes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(4), pages 1753-1794.
      • Pedro Bordalo & Katherine Coffman & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, "undated". "Stereotypes," Working Paper 467407, Harvard University OpenScholar.
      • Pedro Bordalo & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2014. "Stereotypes," NBER Working Papers 20106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • Pedro Bordalo & Katherine Coffman & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, "undated". "Stereotypes," Working Paper 373306, Harvard University OpenScholar.
      • Pedro Bordalo & Katherine Coffman & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2014. "Stereotypes," Working Paper 200246, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    5. Nick Hanley & Mikolaj Czajkowski, 2016. "What is the Causal Impact of Knowledge on Preferences in Stated Preference Studies?," Discussion Papers in Environment and Development Economics 2016-09, University of St. Andrews, School of Geography and Sustainable Development.
    6. Ulrike Malmendier, 2016. "The Bidder's Curse: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(4), pages 1195-1213, April.
    7. Jacob LaRiviere & Mikolaj Czajkowski & Nick Hanley & Katherine Simpson, 2015. "What is the Causal Effect of Knowledge on Preferences?," Discussion Papers in Environment and Development Economics 2015-09, University of St. Andrews, School of Geography and Sustainable Development.
    8. Xavier Gabaix, 2017. "Behavioral Inattention," NBER Working Papers 24096, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Gabaix, Xavier & Laibson, David, 2017. "Myopia and Discounting," CEPR Discussion Papers 11914, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Glogowsky, Ulrich, 2016. "Behavioral Responses to Wealth Transfer Taxation: Bunching Evidence from Germany," Annual Conference 2016 (Augsburg): Demographic Change 145922, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    11. Bharadwaj, Prashant & Pai, Mallesh M. & Suziedelyte, Agne, 2017. "Mental health stigma," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 57-60.
    12. Bohren, J. Aislinn, 2016. "Informational herding with model misspecification," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 222-247.
    13. Dertwinkel-Kalt, Markus & Wenzel, Tobias, 2017. "Focusing and framing of risky alternatives," DICE Discussion Papers 279, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    14. repec:eee:jeborg:v:140:y:2017:i:c:p:1-17 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Victor Stango & Joanne Yoong & Jonathan Zinman, 2017. "The Quest for Parsimony in Behavioral Economics: New Methods and Evidence on Three Fronts," NBER Working Papers 23057, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Dertwinkel-Kalt, Markus & Wenzel, Tobias, 2015. "Attention and Endogenous Framing," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112971, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    17. Mikołaj Czajkowski & Nick Hanley & Jacob LaRiviere & William S. Neilson & Katherine Simpson, 2016. "Information and Learning in Stated-Preference Studies," Working Papers 2016-20, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.

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