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A Model of Focusing in Economic Choice

  • Adam Szeidl


  • Botond Koszegi


We present a theory of individual choice in which the decisionmaker focuses more on, and hence weights more heavily, attributes on which the options in her consideration set are more different. Consistent with evidence on salience in monetary choices, our model predicts that the decisionmaker is biased toward options whose advantages are concentrated in fewer attributes. In intertemporal choice, because a single period's choice can lead to a different concentration of consequences than a lifetime perspective that integrates many choices, the model often predicts time inconsistency in behavior. The decisionmaker exhibits present bias in ``lifestyle'' decisions whose consequences are distributed over many future dates, but also overcommits to an increasing number of future goals with a single large benefit each. In response to the bias toward concentration, profit-maximizing firms design products with one core attribute, and split prices into as many pieces as they can. A strong firm designs products which are strong on its competitor's weak attribute, while a weak firm copies the strong firm's strength. We also propose a theory of consideration-set determination in which the agent considers the set of options that maximizes a combination of utility and differences between attributes.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2011 Meeting Papers with number 1441.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed011:1441
Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA
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  1. Asheim, Geir B., 2007. "Procrastination, partial naivete, and behavioral welfare analysis," Memorandum 02/2007, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  2. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson & Guillermo Moloche & Stephen Weinberg, 2005. "Information Acquisition: Experimental Analysis of a Boundedly Rational Model," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000480, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2008. "Beyond Revealed Preference: Choice Theoretic Foundations for Behavioral Welfare Economics," NBER Working Papers 13737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Looney, Adam & Kroft, Kory & Chetty, Raj, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," Scholarly Articles 9748525, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Victor Stango & Jonathan Zinman, 2009. "What Do Consumers Really Pay on Their Checking and Credit Card Accounts? Explicit, Implicit, and Avoidable Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 424-29, May.
  6. Damon Jones, 2010. "Inertia and Overwithholding: Explaining the Prevalence of Income Tax Refunds," NBER Working Papers 15963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Shleifer, Andrei & Bordalo, Pedro & Gennaioli, Nicola, 2012. "Salience Theory of Choice Under Risk," Scholarly Articles 10636303, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Kfir Eliaz & Michael Richter & Ariel Rubinstein, 2011. "Choosing the two finalists," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 46(2), pages 211-219, February.
  9. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur A. Stone, 2006. "Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer? A Focusing Illusion," Working Papers 77, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  10. Sumit Agarwal & John C Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2008. "Learning in the Credit Card Market," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002028, David K. Levine.
  11. Matthew Rabin & Georg Weizsacker, 2009. "Narrow Bracketing and Dominated Choices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1508-43, September.
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