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Rationally Inattentive Savers and Monetary Policy Changes: A Laboratory Experiment


  • Andrea Civelli
  • Cary Deck
  • Antonella Tutino


We present a model where rationally inattentive agents decide how much to save while imperfectly tracking interest rate changes. Suitable assumptions on agents’ preferences and interest rate distribution allow us to derive testable theoretical predictions and their implications for monetary policy. We probe these predictions using a laboratory experiment with induced inattention that closely reflects the theoretical assumptions. We find that, empirically, the laboratory data corroborates the results of the theoretical model. In particular, we show that experimental subjects respond to changes in the interest rate policy environment with: (1) a decrease in savings when the utility gain from savings does not compensate for the cognitive cost of tracking the interest rate; (2) more informed and deliberate consumption/investment choices when the monetary authority stabilizes the economy by lowering the volatility of the policy rate, implementing a version of Delphic forward guidance; (3) a slight decrease in information processing but no behavioral changes in consumption when the monetary authority signals current monetary policy stance, implementing a version of Odyssean forward guidance; (4) a sizable decrease in investment when their perception of the outlook deteriorates. These experimental and theoretical findings agree with the empirical literature on the effect of monetary policy on households’ consumption behavior in U.S. data and abroad.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrea Civelli & Cary Deck & Antonella Tutino, 2019. "Rationally Inattentive Savers and Monetary Policy Changes: A Laboratory Experiment," Working Papers 1915, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:feddwp:86730
    DOI: 10.24149/wp1915

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hunt Allcott & Dmitry Taubinsky, 2015. "Evaluating Behaviorally Motivated Policy: Experimental Evidence from the Lightbulb Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(8), pages 2501-2538, August.
    2. Rüdiger Bachmann & Tim O. Berg & Eric R. Sims, 2015. "Inflation Expectations and Readiness to Spend: Cross-Sectional Evidence," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 1-35, February.
    3. Binder, Carola, 2017. "Fed speak on main street: Central bank communication and household expectations," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 238-251.
    4. Andrade, Philippe & Ferroni, Filippo, 2021. "Delphic and odyssean monetary policy shocks: Evidence from the euro area," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 816-832.
    5. Antonella Tutino, 2013. "Rationally inattentive consumption choices," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(3), pages 421-439, July.
    6. Danny Yagan, 2019. "Employment Hysteresis from the Great Recession," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 127(5), pages 2505-2558.
    7. Ehrmann, Michael & Gaballo, Gaetano & Hoffmann, Peter & Strasser, Georg, 2019. "Can more public information raise uncertainty? The international evidence on forward guidance," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(C), pages 93-112.
    8. Baeriswyl, Romain & Cornand, Camille, 2010. "The signaling role of policy actions," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(6), pages 682-695, September.
    9. Stefano Eusepi & Bruce Preston, 2018. "The Science of Monetary Policy: An Imperfect Knowledge Perspective," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 56(1), pages 3-59, March.
    10. Gaetano Gaballo, 2016. "Rational Inattention to News: The Perils of Forward Guidance," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 42-97, January.
    11. Taylor, John B., 1993. "Discretion versus policy rules in practice," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 195-214, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Timmons, Shane & Robertson, Deirdre & Lunn, Pete, 2022. "Combining nudges and boosts to increase precautionary saving: A large-scale field experiment," Papers WP722, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

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    More about this item


    Rational Inattention; Experimental Evidence; information processing capacity; Consumption;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • E20 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)

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