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Economic rationality under cognitive load

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  • Drichoutis, Andreas C.
  • Nayga, Rodolfo

Abstract

Economic analysis assumes that consumer behavior can be rationalized by a utility function. Previous research has shown that some decision-making quality can be captured by permanent cognitive ability but has not examined how a temporary load in subjects' working memory can affect economic rationality. In a controlled laboratory experiment, we exogenously vary cognitive load by asking subjects to memorize a number while they undertake an induced budget allocation task (Choi et al., 2007a,b). Using a number of manipulation checks, we verify that cognitive load has adverse affects on subjects' performance in reasoning tasks. However, we find no effect in any of the goodness-of-fit measures that measure consistency of subjects' choices with the Generalized Axiom of Revealed Preferences (GARP), despite having a sample size large enough to detect even small differences between treatments with 80% power. Our finding suggests that researchers need not worry about economic rationality breaking down when subjects are placed under temporary working memory load.

Suggested Citation

  • Drichoutis, Andreas C. & Nayga, Rodolfo, 2017. "Economic rationality under cognitive load," MPRA Paper 81111, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:81111
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cognitive load; rationality; revealed preferences; working memory; response times; laboratory experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions

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