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Social Learning and Selective Attention

Author

Listed:
  • Andrew Caplin
  • John Leahy
  • Filip Matějka

Abstract

Popularity is self reinforcing. The attention garnered by popular options propels further interest in them. Yet rather than blindly follow the crowd, most pay attention to how well these items match their tastes. We model this role of social learning in guiding selective attention and market dynamics. We confirm that attention focuses on options that quickly achieve popularity. Information externalities render the chosen set smaller than socially optimal. This rationalizes antitrust policies that encourage early experimentation. When attention costs are based on Shannon entropy, optimal policies are computable. With rich data, optimal choices can be identified for all consumer types.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Caplin & John Leahy & Filip Matějka, 2015. "Social Learning and Selective Attention," NBER Working Papers 21001, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Filip Matějka, 2016. "Rationally Inattentive Seller: Sales and Discrete Pricing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(3), pages 1125-1155.
    2. Bartosz Mackowiak & Mirko Wiederholt, 2009. "Optimal Sticky Prices under Rational Inattention," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 769-803, June.
    3. Filip Matêjka & Alisdair McKay, 2015. "Rational Inattention to Discrete Choices: A New Foundation for the Multinomial Logit Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(1), pages 272-298, January.
    4. Mondria, Jordi, 2010. "Portfolio choice, attention allocation, and price comovement," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 145(5), pages 1837-1864, September.
    5. Filip Matejka & Christopher A. Sims, 2011. "Discrete Actions in Information-Constrained Tracking Problems," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp441, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    6. Caplin, Andrew & Leahy, John, 1998. "Miracle on Sixth Avenue: Information Externalities and Search," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(446), pages 60-74, January.
    7. Dennis E. Smallwood & John Conlisk, 1979. "Product Quality in Markets Where Consumers are Imperfectly Informed," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(1), pages 1-23.
    8. Chamley, Christophe & Gale, Douglas, 1994. "Information Revelation and Strategic Delay in a Model of Investment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(5), pages 1065-1085, September.
    9. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2009. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice-Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 51-104.
    10. Ramon Caminal & Xavier Vives, 1996. "Why Market Shares Matter: An Information-Based Theory," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(2), pages 221-239, Summer.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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