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How Do Behavioral Assumptions Affect Structural Inference? Evidence From A Laboratory Experiment


  • Daniel Houser
  • Joachim Winter

    () (Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA))


We use a laboratory experiment to investigate the effect that assuming rational expectations has on structural inference in a dynamic discrete choice decision problem. Our experimental design induces preferences up to each subject’s subjective rates of time preference, leaving unrestricted only this parameter and the decision rule that the subject uses in solving the problem. We analyze the data under the assumption that all subjects use the rational expectations decision rule, and also under weaker behavioral assumptions that allow for heterogeneity in the way people form decisions. We find no evidence that assuming rational expectations distorts inferences about the cross-sectional distribution of discount rates.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Houser & Joachim Winter, 2002. "How Do Behavioral Assumptions Affect Structural Inference? Evidence From A Laboratory Experiment," MEA discussion paper series 02005, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:mea:meawpa:02005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. El-Gamal, Mahmoud A. & Grether, David M., 1995. "Are People Bayesian? Uncovering Behavioral Strategies," Working Papers 919, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
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    10. Krusell, Per & Smith, Anthony Jr., 1996. "Rules of thumb in macroeconomic equilibrium A quantitative analysis," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 527-558, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Schunk, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2009. "The relationship between risk attitudes and heuristics in search tasks: A laboratory experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 347-360, August.
    2. Tetsuo Yamamori Author-Name: Kazuyuki Iwata & Akira Ogawa, 2014. "An Experimental Study of Money Illusion in Intertemporal Decision Making," Working Papers e85, Tokyo Center for Economic Research.
    3. Daniel Houser & Michael Keane & Kevin McCabe, 2004. "Behavior in a Dynamic Decision Problem: An Analysis of Experimental Evidence Using a Bayesian Type Classification Algorithm," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(3), pages 781-822, May.
    4. Franz Rothlauf & Daniel Schunk & Jella Pfeiffer, 2005. "Classification of Human Decision Behavior: Finding Modular Decision Rules with Genetic Algorithms," MEA discussion paper series 05079, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    5. Baohong Sun, 2006. "—Dynamic Structural Consumer Models and Current Marketing Issues," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(6), pages 625-628, 11-12.
    6. Daniel Houser & Robert Kurzban, 2003. "Conditional cooperation and group dynamics: Experimental evidence from a sequential public goods game," Experimental 0307001, EconWPA, revised 21 Jan 2005.
    7. Gerald Häubl & Benedict G. C. Dellaert & Bas Donkers, 2010. "Tunnel Vision: Local Behavioral Influences on Consumer Decisions in Product Search," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(3), pages 438-455, 05-06.
    8. Luís Santos-Pinto & Adrian Bruhin & José Mata & Thomas Åstebro, 2015. "Detecting heterogeneous risk attitudes with mixed gambles," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 79(4), pages 573-600, December.
    9. Schunk, Daniel, 2005. "Search behaviour with reference point preferences : theory and experimental evidence," Papers 05-12, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
    10. Daniel Houser & Kevin McCabe & Michael Keane & Antoine Bechara, 2003. "Heuristics Used By Humans With Prefrontal Cortex Damage: Toward An Empirical Model Of Phineas Gage," Experimental 0308002, EconWPA.
    11. Schunk, Daniel, 2009. "Behavioral heterogeneity in dynamic search situations: Theory and experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 33(9), pages 1719-1738, September.
    12. Hao, Li & Houser, Daniel, 2017. "Perceptions, intentions, and cheating," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 52-73.
    13. Gunnthorsdottir, Anna & Houser, Daniel & McCabe, Kevin, 2007. "Disposition, history and contributions in public goods experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 304-315, February.
    14. David Zetland, 2013. "Water managers are selfish like us," Chapters,in: Handbook on Experimental Economics and the Environment, chapter 14, pages 407-433 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    15. Li Hao & Daniel Houser, 2013. "Perceptions, Intentions, and Cheating," Working Papers 1039, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Feb 2013.
    16. Houser, Daniel & Bechara, Antoine & Keane, Michael & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon, 2005. "Identifying individual differences: An algorithm with application to Phineas Gage," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 373-385, August.
    17. repec:eee:jeborg:v:145:y:2018:i:c:p:465-473 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. David Zetland & Marina Della Giusta, 2011. "Focal Points, Gender Norms and Reciprocation in Public Good Games," Economics & Management Discussion Papers em-dp2011-01, Henley Business School, Reading University.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General
    • C44 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Operations Research; Statistical Decision Theory


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