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Researching Preferences, Valuation and Hypothetical Bias

  • Rolando Guzman
  • Charles Kolstad

    ()

A number of recent papers in environmental economics have focused on the process of researching preferences – agents are uncertain about preferences but with effort may narrow their uncertainty. This issue has arisen in formulating bids in contingent valuation (CV) as well as the debate over the divergence between WTP and WTA. In the context of CV, it has been suggested that the hypothetical nature of the preference elicitation process biases responses. This paper provides both a theoretical model and experimental evidence to contribute to this debate. The model is a model of competitive bidding for a private good with two components that are particularly relevant to the debate. The first component is that bidders are unsure of their own value for the private good but may purchase information about their own value (researching preferences). The second component is that there is a probability that the auction is hypothetical – that the winning bidder will not get the private good and will not pay the winning bid. The experiment tests this theoretical model of bidding equilibrium and analyzes the effects of variations in the parameters (hypotheticalness, information costs and number of agents) on the endogenous variables (such as the proportion of bidders who become informed and the winning bid). Experimental results suggest that an increase in the hypotheticalness of an auction tends to decrease the likelihood that bidders pay for information on their valuation with an ambiguous effect on the winning bid. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

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Article provided by European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists in its journal Environmental and Resource Economics.

Volume (Year): 37 (2007)
Issue (Month): 3 (July)
Pages: 465-487

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Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:37:y:2007:i:3:p:465-487
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100263

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  1. Kagel, John H & Harstad, Ronald M & Levin, Dan, 1987. "Information Impact and Allocation Rules in Auctions with Affiliated Private Values: A Laboratory Study," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(6), pages 1275-1304, November.
  2. Guzman, Rolando M & Kolstad, Charles D., 1997. "Auction Equilibrium with Costly Information Acquisition," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt4w0787ng, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  3. Sanford J Grossman & Joseph E Stiglitz, 1997. "On the Impossibility of Informationally Efficient Markets," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1908, David K. Levine.
  4. Schweizer, Urs & von Ungern-Sternberg, Thomas, 1983. "Sealed Bid Auctions and the Search for Better Information," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 50(197), pages 79-85, February.
  5. Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Method and Hist of Econ Thought 0012001, EconWPA.
  6. Lee, Tom K., 1985. "Competition and information acquisition in first price auctions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 18(2-3), pages 129-132.
  7. Engelbrecht-Wiggans, Richard & Milgrom, Paul R. & Weber, Robert J., 1983. "Competitive bidding and proprietary information," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 161-169, April.
  8. Carson, Richard T & Flores, Nicholas A, 2000. "Contingent Valuation: Controversies and Evidence," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt75k752s7, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  9. Paul Milgrom & Robert J. Weber, 1981. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Discussion Papers 447R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  10. Kolstad, Charles D. & Guzman, Rolando M., 1999. "Information and the Divergence between Willingness to Accept and Willingness to Pay," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 66-80, July.
  11. Patrick Bajari & Ali Horta�su, 2004. "Economic Insights from Internet Auctions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(2), pages 457-486, June.
  12. Kolstad, Charles D., 1997. "A Model of Auction Equilibrium with Costly Information Acquisition," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt4502p3n4, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  13. Nicola Persico, 2000. "Information Acquisition in Auctions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(1), pages 135-148, January.
  14. Zhao, Jinhua & Kling, Catherine L., 2001. "A new explanation for the WTP/WTA disparity," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 293-300, December.
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