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Correlation Neglect in Belief Formation

  • Benjamin Enke
  • Florian Zimmermann

Many information structures generate correlated rather than mutually independent signals, the news media being a prime example. This paper shows experimentally that in such contexts many people neglect these correlations in the updating process and treat correlated information as independent. In consequence, people’s beliefs are excessively sensitive to well-connected information sources, implying a pattern of “overshooting” beliefs. Additionally, in an experimental asset market, correlation neglect not only drives overoptimism and overpessimism at the individual level, but also affects aggregate outcomes in a systematic manner. In particular, the excessive confidence swings caused by correlated signals give rise to predictable price bubbles and crashes. These findings are reminiscent of popular narratives according to which aggregate booms and busts might be driven by the spread of “stories”. Our results also lend direct support to recent models of boundedly rational social learning.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4483.

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Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4483
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  3. Brian D. Kluger & Steve B. Wyatt, 2004. "Are Judgment Errors Reflected in Market Prices and Allocations? Experimental Evidence Based on the Monty Hall Problem," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(3), pages 969-998, 06.
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  6. Smith, Vernon L & Suchanek, Gerry L & Williams, Arlington W, 1988. "Bubbles, Crashes, and Endogenous Expectations in Experimental Spot Asset Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(5), pages 1119-51, September.
  7. Selten, Reinhard, 1996. "Axiomatic Characterization of the Quadratic Scoring Rule," Discussion Paper Serie B 390, University of Bonn, Germany.
  8. Pedro Bordalo & Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2010. "Salience Theory of Choice Under Risk," NBER Working Papers 16387, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Camerer, Colin F, 1987. "Do Biases in Probability Judgment Matter in Markets? Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 981-97, December.
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  12. George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
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