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Rational Inattention and Sequential Information Sampling

Listed author(s):
  • Benjamin Hébert
  • Michael Woodford

We propose a new principle for measuring the cost of information structures in rational inattention problems, based on the cost of generating the information used to make a decision through a dynamic evidence accumulation process. We introduce a continuous-time model of sequential information sampling, and show that, in a broad class of cases, the choice frequencies resulting from optimal information accumulation are the same as those implied by a static rational inattention problem with a particular static information-cost function. Among the static cost functions that can be justified in this way is the mutual information cost function proposed by Sims (2010), but we show that other cost functions can be micro-founded in this way as well. In particular, we introduce a class of “neighborhood-based” cost functions, which make it more costly to undertake experiments that can produce different results in similar states, and show that the predictions of this alternative rational inattention theory better conform with evidence from perceptual discrimination experiments.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23787.

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Date of creation: Sep 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23787
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  1. Emir Kamenica & Matthew Gentzkow, 2011. "Bayesian Persuasion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2590-2615, October.
  2. 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.
  3. Stephen Morris & Hyun Song Shin, 2000. "Global Games: Theory and Applications," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1275R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Aug 2001.
  4. Michael Woodford, 2014. "An Optimizing Neuroeconomic Model of Discrete Choice," NBER Working Papers 19897, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Yang, Ming, 2015. "Coordination with flexible information acquisition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 158(PB), pages 721-738.
  6. Andrew Caplin & Mark Dean & John Leahy, 2017. "Rationally Inattentive Behavior: Characterizing and Generalizing Shannon Entropy," NBER Working Papers 23652, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Ian Krajbich & Bastiaan Oud & Ernst Fehr, 2014. "Benefits of Neuroeconomic Modeling: New Policy Interventions and Predictors of Preference," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 501-506, May.
  8. Andrew Caplin & Mark Dean, 2015. "Revealed Preference, Rational Inattention, and Costly Information Acquisition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(7), pages 2183-2203, July.
  9. Sims, Christopher A., 2010. "Rational Inattention and Monetary Economics," Handbook of Monetary Economics,in: Benjamin M. Friedman & Michael Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Monetary Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 4, pages 155-181 Elsevier.
  10. Ernst Fehr & Antonio Rangel, 2011. "Neuroeconomic Foundations of Economic Choice--Recent Advances," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 3-30, Fall.
  11. Stephen Morris & Ming Yang, 2016. "Coordination and the Relative Cost of Distinguishing Nearby States," Working Papers 079_2016, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Econometric Research Program..
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