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Can subjective expectations data be used in choice models? Evidence on cognitive biases

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  • Basit Zafar

Abstract

A pervasive concern with the use of subjective data in choice models is that the data are biased and endogenous. This paper examines the extent to which cognitive biases plague subjective data, specifically addressing 1) whether cognitive dissonance affects the reporting of beliefs, and 2) whether individuals exert sufficient mental effort when probed about their subjective beliefs. For this purpose, I collect a unique panel data set of Northwestern University undergraduates that contains their subjective expectations about outcomes specific to different majors in their choice set. I do not find evidence of cognitive biases systematically affecting the reporting of beliefs: By analyzing patterns of belief updating, I can rule out cognitive dissonance being a serious concern in the current setting. Moreover, there seems to be no systematic (nonclassical) measurement error in the reporting of beliefs. In the reported beliefs for the various majors, I find no systematic patterns in mental recall of previous responses or in the extent of rounding. Comparison of subjective beliefs with objective measures suggests that students have well-formed expectations. Overall, the results paint a favorable picture for the use of subjective expectations data in choice models.

Suggested Citation

  • Basit Zafar, 2010. "Can subjective expectations data be used in choice models? Evidence on cognitive biases," Staff Reports 454, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:454
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    Cited by:

    1. de Bresser, Jochem & van Soest, Arthur, 2013. "Survey response in probabilistic questions and its impact on inference," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 65-84.
    2. Teodora Boneva & Christopher Rauh, 2015. "Parental Beliefs about Returns to Educational Investments: The Later the Better?," Working Papers 2015-019, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    3. Johannes S. Kunz & Kevin E. Staub, 2016. "Subjective completion beliefs and the demand for post-secondary education," ECON - Working Papers 218, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    4. Basit Zafar, 2012. "Double Majors: One For Me, One For The Parents?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 50(2), pages 287-308, April.
    5. repec:eee:jeborg:v:141:y:2017:i:c:p:135-150 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Schweri, Juerg & Hartog, Joop, 2014. "Do wage expectations influence the decision to enroll in nursing college?," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100542, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    7. Delavande, Adeline & Zafar, Basit, 2014. "University choice: the role of expected earnings, non-pecuniary outcomes and financial constraints," ISER Working Paper Series 2014-38, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    8. Alan Gerber & Mitchell Hoffman & John Morgan & Collin Raymond, 2017. "One in a Million: Field Experiments on Perceived Closeness of the Election and Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 23071, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Martínez Ros, Ester & Busom, Isabel & Corchuelo, Beatriz, 2011. "Tax incentives and direct support for R&D : what do firms use and why?," INDEM - Working Paper Business Economic Series id-11-03, Instituto para el Desarrollo Empresarial (INDEM).
    10. Chris Belfield & Teodora Boneva & Christopher Rauh & Jonathan Shaw, 2016. "Money or fun? Why students want to pursue further education," IFS Working Papers W16/13, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    11. Olympia Bover, 2015. "Measuring expectations from household surveys: new results on subjective probabilities of future house prices," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 361-405, November.
    12. de Bresser, J.R., 2013. "Between goals and expectations : Essays on pensions and retirement," Other publications TiSEM 4a23d569-88cd-40fa-aa23-c, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    13. Costanigro, Marco & Scozzafava, Gabriele & Casini, Leonardo, 2017. "Vertical Differentiation, Perceptions Restructuring, And Wine Choices: The Case Of The Gran Selezione In Chianti Wines," Working Papers 253850, American Association of Wine Economists.
    14. Pamela Giustinelli, 2011. "Group Decision Making with Uncertain Outcomes: Unpacking Child-Parent Choices of High School Tracks," Working Papers 2011-030, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.

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    Keywords

    Bayesian statistical decision theory ; Human behavior ; Social choice ; Universities and colleges;

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