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Heuristic Thinking and Limited Attention in the Car Market

  • Justin R. Sydnor

    (University of Wisconsin)

  • Devin G. Pope

    (University of Chicago)

  • Nicola Lacetera

    (University of Toronto)

Can heuristic information processing affect important product markets? We explore whether the tendency to focus on the left-most digit of a number affects how used car buyers incorporate odometer values in their purchase decisions. Analyzing over 22 million wholesale used-car transactions, we find substantial evidence of this left-digit bias; there are large and discontinuous drops in sale prices at 10,000-mile thresholds in odometer mileage, along with smaller drops at 1,000-mile thresholds. We obtain estimates for the inattention parameter in a simple model of this left-digit bias. We also investigate whether this heuristic behavior is primarily attributable to the final used-car customers or the used-car salesmen who buy cars in the wholesale market. The evidence is most consistent with partial inattention by final customers. We discuss the significance of these results for the literature on inattention and point to other market settings where this type of heuristic thinking may be important. Our results suggest that information-processing heuristics may be important even in market settings with large stakes and where information is easy to observe.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2011 Meeting Papers with number 105.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed011:105
Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Christian Zimmermann Economic Research Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis PO Box 442 St. Louis MO 63166-0442 USA
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Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/society.htm
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  1. Amy Finkelstein, 2007. "E-ZTax: Tax Salience and Tax Rates," NBER Working Papers 12924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Stefano Dellavigna & Joshua M. Pollet, 2009. "Investor Inattention and Friday Earnings Announcements," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(2), pages 709-749, 04.
  3. Laibson, David I. & Gabaix, Xavier, 2006. "Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets," Scholarly Articles 4554333, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Jennifer Brown & Tanjim Hossain & John Morgan, 2010. "Shrouded Attributes and Information Suppression: Evidence from the Field," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(2), pages 859-876, May.
  5. Stefano DellaVigna, 2007. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," NBER Working Papers 13420, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Looney, Adam & Kroft, Kory & Chetty, Raj, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," Scholarly Articles 9748525, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2009. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," NBER Working Papers 14723, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. John List & Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for altruism and social pressure in charitable giving," Natural Field Experiments 00137, The Field Experiments Website.
  9. Sendhil Mullainathan & Joshua Schwartzstein & Andrei Shleifer, 2008. "Coarse Thinking and Persuasion," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(2), pages 577-619, 05.
  10. David Hirshleifer & Sonya Seongyeon Lim & Siew Hong Teoh, 2009. "Driven to Distraction: Extraneous Events and Underreaction to Earnings News," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(5), pages 2289-2325, October.
  11. Kaushik Basu, 2006. "Consumer Cognition and Pricing in the Nines in Oligopolistic Markets," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 15(1), pages 125-141, 03.
  12. Raj Chetty, 2009. "The Simple Economics of Salience and Taxation," NBER Working Papers 15246, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Pope, Devin G., 2009. "Reacting to rankings: Evidence from "America's Best Hospitals"," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 1154-1165, December.
  14. repec:feb:framed:0087 is not listed on IDEAS
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