IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/egc/wpaper/918.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

What's Psychology Worth? A Field Experiment in the Consumer Credit Market

Author

Listed:
  • Marianne Bertrand

    (University of Chicago, NBER & CEPR)

  • Dean S. Karlan

    () (Yale University, Economic Growth Center)

  • Sendhil Mullainathan

    (Harvard University & NBER)

  • Eldar Shafir

    (Princeton University)

  • Jonathan Zinman

    (Dartmouth College)

Abstract

Numerous laboratory studies report on behaviors inconsistent with rational economic models. How much do these inconsistencies matter in natural settings, when consumers make large, real decisions and have the opportunity to learn from experiences? We report on a field experiment designed to address this question. Incumbent clients of a lender in South Africa were sent letters offering them large, short-term loans at randomly chosen interest rates. Psychological “features” on the letter, which did not affect offer terms or economic content, were also independently randomized. Consistent with standard economics, the interest rate significantly affected loan take-up. Inconsistent with standard economics, the psychological features also significantly affected take-up. The independent randomizations allow us to quantify the relative importance of psychological features and prices. Our core finding is the sheer magnitude of the psychological effects. On average, any one psychological manipulation has the same effect as a one half percentage point change in the monthly interest rate. Interestingly, the psychological features appear to have greater impact in the context of less advantageous offers. Moreover, the psychological features do not appear to draw in marginally worse clients, nor does the magnitude of the psychological effects vary systematically with income or education. In short, even in a market setting with large stakes and experienced customers, subtle psychological features that normatively ought to have no impact appear to be extremely powerful drivers of behavior.

Suggested Citation

  • Marianne Bertrand & Dean S. Karlan & Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir & Jonathan Zinman, 2005. "What's Psychology Worth? A Field Experiment in the Consumer Credit Market," Working Papers 918, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:918
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.econ.yale.edu/growth_pdf/cdp918.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Herbert A. Simon, 1955. "A Behavioral Model of Rational Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 99-118.
    2. Sewin Chan & Ann Huff Stevens, 2008. "What You Don't Know Can't Help You: Pension Knowledge and Retirement Decision-Making," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 253-266, May.
    3. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 164-187, February.
    4. Jonathan Zinman, 2004. "Why use debit instead of credit? Consumer choice in a trillion-dollar market," Staff Reports 191, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    5. Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Saving, Fungibility, and Mental Accounts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 193-205, Winter.
    6. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "Observing Unobservables: Identifying Information Asymmetries With a Consumer Credit Field Experiment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(6), pages 1993-2008, November.
    7. David Laibson, 2001. "A Cue-Theory of Consumption," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 81-119.
    8. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
    9. Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2004. "Contract Design and Self-Control: Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 353-402.
    10. Craig E. Landry & Andreas Lange & John A. List & Michael K. Price & Nicholas G. Rupp, 2006. "Toward an Understanding of the Economics of Charity: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 747-782.
    11. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1007-1047.
    12. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard Thaler, 2004. "Save more tomorrow: Using behavioral economics to increase employee saving," Natural Field Experiments 00337, The Field Experiments Website.
    13. Morwitz, Vicki G & Johnson, Eric J & Schmittlein, David C, 1993. " Does Measuring Intent Change Behavior?," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 46-61, June.
    14. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    15. Michael S. Haigh & John A. List, 2005. "Do Professional Traders Exhibit Myopic Loss Aversion? An Experimental Analysis," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(1), pages 523-534, February.
    16. Alan Gerber & Anton Orlich & Jennifer Smith, 2003. "Self-prophecy effects and voter turnout: An experimental replication," Natural Field Experiments 00333, The Field Experiments Website.
    17. Markus M. Mobius & Tanya S. Rosenblat, 2006. "Why Beauty Matters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 222-235, March.
    18. Mandel, Naomi & Johnson, Eric J, 2002. " When Web Pages Influence Choice: Effects of Visual Primes on Experts and Novices," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(2), pages 235-245, September.
    19. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    20. Karlan, Dean S. & Zinman, Jonathan, 2005. "Elasticities of Demand for Consumer Credit," Center Discussion Papers 28485, Yale University, Economic Growth Center.
    21. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-1061.
    22. Terrance Odean, 1998. "Are Investors Reluctant to Realize Their Losses?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(5), pages 1775-1798, October.
    23. Ashraf, Nava & Karlan, Dean S. & Yin, Wesley, 2005. "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines," Center Discussion Papers 28411, Yale University, Economic Growth Center.
    24. Fitzsimons, Gavan J & Shiv, Baba, 2001. " Nonconscious and Contaminative Effects of Hypothetical Questions on Subsequent Decision Making," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 28(2), pages 224-238, September.
    25. Sendhil Mullainathan & Richard H. Thaler, 2000. "Behavioral Economics," NBER Working Papers 7948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    26. Paul E. Green & Abba M. Krieger & Yoram Wind, 2001. "Thirty Years of Conjoint Analysis: Reflections and Prospects," Interfaces, INFORMS, vol. 31(3_supplem), pages 56-73, June.
    27. Wesley Yin & Nava Ashraf & Dean Karlan, 2004. "Getting Odysseus to Save: Evidence from a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 562, Econometric Society.
    28. Huber, Joel & Payne, John W & Puto, Christopher, 1982. " Adding Asymmetrically Dominated Alternatives: Violations of Regularity and the Similarity Hypothesis," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 90-98, June.
    29. Nava Ashraf & Dean Karlan & Wesley Yin, 2006. "Tying Odysseus to the Mast: Evidence From a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 635-672.
    30. Min Ding & Rajdeep Grewal & John Liechty, 2005. "Incentive-aligned conjoint analysis," Framed Field Experiments 00139, The Field Experiments Website.
    31. Karlan, Dean S. & Zinman, Jonathan, 2005. "Observing Unobservables: Identifying Information Asymmetries with a Consumer Credit Field Experiment," Center Discussion Papers 28482, Yale University, Economic Growth Center.
    32. Itamar Simonson & Ziv Carmon & Suzanne O'Curry, 1994. "Experimental Evidence on the Negative Effect of Product Features and Sales Promotions on Brand Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 13(1), pages 23-40.
    33. Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2005. "Elasticities of Demand for Consumer Credit," Working Papers 926, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    34. John A. List, 2003. "Does Market Experience Eliminate Market Anomalies?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 41-71.
    35. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    36. Fehr, Ernst & Götte, Lorenz, 2004. "Do Workers Work More When Wages Are High? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 1002, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    37. John A. List, 2004. "Neoclassical Theory Versus Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Marketplace," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(2), pages 615-625, March.
    38. Ganzach, Yoav & Karsahi, Nili, 1995. "Message framing and buying behavior: A field experiment," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 11-17, January.
    39. Eugenio J. Miravete, 2003. "Choosing the Wrong Calling Plan? Ignorance and Learning," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 297-310, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Behavioral economics; psychology; microfinance; marketing; field experiment; credit markets;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • M37 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Advertising
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:egc:wpaper:918. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wendy Lewis). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/egyalus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.