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A Testable Theory of Imperfect Perception

  • Andrew Caplin
  • Daniel Martin

We introduce a rational choice theory that allows for many forms of imperfect perception, including failures of memory, selective attention, and adherence to simplifying rules of thumb. Despite its generality, the theory has strong, simple, and intuitive implications for standard choice data and for more enriched choice data. The central assumption is rational expectations: decision makers understand the relationship between their perceptions, however limited they may be, and the (stochastic) consequences of their available choices. Our theory separately identifies two distinct "framing" effects: standard effects involving the layout of the prizes (e.g. order in a list) and novel effects relating to the information content of the environment (e.g. how likely is the first in the list to be the best). Simple experimental tests both affirm the basic model and confirm the existence of information-based framing effects.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17163.

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Date of creation: Jun 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Caplin, Andrew, and Daniel Martin (2014), “A Testable Theory of Imperfect Perception,” The Economic Journal, forthcoming.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17163
Note: TWP
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  1. Caplin, Andrew & Dean, Mark, 2011. "Search, choice, and revealed preference," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 6(1), January.
  2. Xavier Gabaix, 2014. "A Sparsity-Based Model of Bounded Rationality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(4), pages 1661-1710.
  3. Richard H. Thaler, 2008. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(1), pages 15-25, 01-02.
  4. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2006. "Random Expected Utility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(1), pages 121-146, 01.
  5. Yuval Salant & Ariel Rubinstein, 2008. "(A, f): Choice with Frames -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 1287-1296.
  6. Gottlieb, Daniel, 2014. "Imperfect memory and choice under risk," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 127-158.
  7. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2005. "The Case for Mindless Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 784828000000000581, David K. Levine.
  8. Rabin, Matthew & Weizsäcker, Georg, 2007. "Narrow Bracketing and Dominated Choices," IZA Discussion Papers 3040, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer, 2009. "What comes to mind," Economics Working Papers 1186, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Nov 2009.
  10. Nakajima, Daisuke & Masatlioglu, Yusufcan, 2013. "Choice by iterative search," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 8(3), September.
  11. Paola Manzini & Marco Mariotti, 2007. "Sequentially Rationalizable Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1824-1839, December.
  12. Sims, Christopher A., 2003. "Implications of rational inattention," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 665-690, April.
  13. Haluk Ergin & Todd Sarver, 2010. "A Unique Costly Contemplation Representation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(4), pages 1285-1339, 07.
  14. Elena Reutskaja & Rosemarie Nagel & Colin F. Camerer & Antonio Rangel, 2011. "Search Dynamics in Consumer Choice under Time Pressure: An Eye-Tracking Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 900-926, April.
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