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Can differences in individual learning explain patterns of technology adoption? Evidence on heterogeneous learning patterns and hybrid rice adoption in Bihar, India

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  • Gars, Jared
  • Ward, Patrick S.

Abstract

Much empirical research that has shown that an individual’s decision to adopt a new technology is the result of learning – both in personal experimentation as well as observing the experimentation of others. Yet even casual observation would suggest significant heterogeneity learning processes, manifesting itself in widely varying patterns of adoption over space and time. In this paper we explore this heterogeneity in the context of early adoption of hybrid rice in rural India. Using specially-designed experiments conducted as part of a primary survey in the field, we are able to identify which of four broad learning heuristics most accurately reflects individuals’ information processing strategies. Linking these learning heuristics with observed use of rice hybrids, we demonstrate that pure Bayesian learning is well suited for the tinkering and marginal adjustments that would be required to learn about a technology like hybrid rice, but is also more cognitively taxing, requiring a longer memory and more complex updating processes. Consequently, only about 25 percent of the farmers in our sample can be characterized as pure Bayesian learners. Present-biased learning and relying on first impressions will likely hinder adoption of a technology like hybrid rice, even after controlling for access to credit and a rudimentary proxy for intelligence.

Suggested Citation

  • Gars, Jared & Ward, Patrick S., 2019. "Can differences in individual learning explain patterns of technology adoption? Evidence on heterogeneous learning patterns and hybrid rice adoption in Bihar, India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 178-189.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:115:y:2019:i:c:p:178-189
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.11.014
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