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Coarse Thinking and Persuasion

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  • Sendhil Mullainathan
  • Joshua Schwartzstein
  • Andrei Shleifer

Abstract

We present a model of uninformative persuasion in which individuals "think coarsely": they group situations into categories and apply the same model of inference to all situations within a category. Coarse thinking exhibits two features that persuaders take advantage of: (i) transference, whereby individuals transfer the informational content of a given message from situations in a category where it is useful to those where it is not, and (ii) framing, whereby objectively useless information influences individuals' choice of category. The model sheds light on uninformative advertising and product branding, as well as on some otherwise anomalous evidence on mutual fund advertising.

Suggested Citation

  • Sendhil Mullainathan & Joshua Schwartzstein & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "Coarse Thinking and Persuasion," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 577-619.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:2:p:577-619.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1162/qjec.2008.123.2.577
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • M31 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Marketing
    • M37 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Advertising

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