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The allocation of attention: theory and evidence


  • Gabaix, Xavier
  • Laibson, David Isaac
  • Moloche, Guillermo
  • Stephen, Weinberg


A host of recent studies show that attention allocation has important economic consequences. This paper reports the first empirical test of a cost-benefit model of the endogenous allocation of attention. The model assumes that economic agents have finite mental processing speeds and cannot analyze all of the elements in complex problems. The model makes tractable predictions about attention allocation, despite the high level of complexity in our environment. The model successfully predicts the key empirical regularities of attention allocation measured in a choice experiment. In the experiment, decision time is a scarce resource and attention allocation is continuously measured using Mouselab. Subject choices correspond well to the quantitative predictions of the model, which are derived from cost-benefit and option-value principles.

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  • Gabaix, Xavier & Laibson, David Isaac & Moloche, Guillermo & Stephen, Weinberg, 2003. "The allocation of attention: theory and evidence," MPRA Paper 47339, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:47339

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Hirshleifer, David & Lim, Seongyeon & Teoh, Siew Hong, 2004. "Disclosure to an Audience with Limited Attention," Working Paper Series 2004-21, Ohio State University, Charles A. Dice Center for Research in Financial Economics.
    2. Jordan Louviere & Kenneth Train & Moshe Ben-Akiva & Chandra Bhat & David Brownstone & Trudy Cameron & Richard Carson & J. Deshazo & Denzil Fiebig & William Greene & David Hensher & Donald Waldman, 2005. "Recent Progress on Endogeneity in Choice Modeling," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 255-265, December.
    3. Wiktor L. Adamowicz, 2004. "What's it worth? An examination of historical trends and future directions in environmental valuation," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 48(3), pages 419-443, September.
    4. Lindhjem, Henrik & Navrud, Ståle, 2011. "Using Internet in Stated Preference Surveys: A Review and Comparison of Survey Modes," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 5(4), pages 309-351, September.
    5. Riccardo Scarpa & Mara Thiene & David A. Hensher, 2010. "Monitoring Choice Task Attribute Attendance in Nonmarket Valuation of Multiple Park Management Services: Does It Matter?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 86(4), pages 817-839.
    6. Peng, Lin & Xiong, Wei, 2006. "Investor attention, overconfidence and category learning," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 563-602, June.
    7. Seasholes, Mark S. & Wu, Guojun, 2007. "Predictable behavior, profits, and attention," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 590-610, December.
    8. Karen Kaiser, 2010. "Limited Attention and Choice," Working Papers 2010-02, Banco de México.
    9. Mondria, Jordi & Wu, Thomas & Zhang, Yi, 2010. "The determinants of international investment and attention allocation: Using internet search query data," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 85-95, September.
    10. Lin Peng & Wei Xiong & Tim Bollerslev, 2007. "Investor Attention and Time-varying Comovements," European Financial Management, European Financial Management Association, vol. 13(3), pages 394-422.
    11. Patrick Bolton & Antoine Faure-Grimaud, 2009. "Thinking Ahead: The Decision Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(4), pages 1205-1238.
    12. Mark Doms & Norman J. Morin, 2004. "Consumer sentiment, the economy, and the news media," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2004-51, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    13. Stefano DellaVigna & Joshua Pollet, 2005. "Investor Inattention, Firm Reaction, and Friday Earnings Announcements," NBER Working Papers 11683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Philippe Bacchetta & Eric van Wincoop, 2005. "Rational Inattention: A Solution to the Forward Discount Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 11633, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Andreas M. Hefti, 2011. "Attention competition," ECON - Working Papers 028, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    16. Dragone, Davide, 2009. "I am getting tired: Effort and fatigue in intertemporal decision-making," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 552-562, August.
    17. Hirshleifer, David & Lim, Sonya S. & Teoh, Siew Hong, 2004. "Disclosure to a Credulous Audience: The Role of Limited Attention," MPRA Paper 5198, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. Richard Arena & Agnès Festré & Nathalie Lazaric, 2012. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-01053657, HAL.
    19. Josef Falkinger, 2008. "Limited Attention as a Scarce Resource in Information-Rich Economies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(532), pages 1596-1620, October.
    20. Falkinger, Josef, 2005. "Limited Attention as the Scarce Resource in an Information-Rich Economy," IZA Discussion Papers 1538, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    21. D. Dragone, 2006. "Endogenous Attention Costs and Intertemporal Decision-Making," Working Papers 570, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    22. Huberman, Bernardo & Wu, Fang, 2006. "Comparative Advante and Efficient Advertising in the Attention Economy," MPRA Paper 928, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    23. Colin F. Camerer & Teck-Hua Ho & Juin-Kuan Chong, 2004. "A Cognitive Hierarchy Model of Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 861-898.

    More about this item


    attention; satisficing; Mouselab;

    JEL classification:

    • C7 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory
    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty


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