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Coarse Thinking and Persuasion

  • Sendhil Mullainathan

    (Harvard University)

  • Joshua Schwartzstein

    (Harvard University)

  • Andrei Shleifer

    (Harvard University)

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. (c) 2008 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology..

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 123 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (05)
Pages: 577-619

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:123:y:2008:i:2:p:577-619
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