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Rational Inattention to Discrete Choices: A New Foundation for the Multinomial Logit Model

  • Alisdair McKay

    (Boston University)

  • Filip Matejka

    (CERGE, Prague)

We apply the rational inattention approach to information frictions to a discrete choice problem. The rationally inattentive agent chooses how to process information about the unknown values of the available options to maximize the expected value of the chosen option less an information cost. We solve the model analytically and find that if the agent views the options as equivalent a priori, then the agent chooses probabilistically according to the multinomial logit model, which is widely used to study discrete choices. When the options are not symmetric a priori, the agent incorporates prior knowledge of the options into the choice in a simple fashion that can be interpreted as a multinomial logit in which an option's a priori attractiveness shifts its perceived value. Unlike the multinomial logit, this model predicts that duplicate options are treated as a single option.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2011 Meeting Papers with number 535.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed011:535
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. Tutino, Antonella, 2008. "The rigidity of choice: lifetime savings under information-processing constraints," MPRA Paper 16744, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 24 Jul 2009.
  2. Jörgen Weibull & Lars-Göran Mattsson & Mark Voorneveld, 2007. "Better May be Worse: Some Monotonicity Results and Paradoxes in Discrete Choice Under Uncertainty," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 63(2), pages 121-151, September.
  3. Mackowiak, Bartosz Adam & Wiederholt, Mirko, 2010. "Business Cycle Dynamics under Rational Inattention," CEPR Discussion Papers 7691, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Bartosz Mackowiak & Mirko Wiederholt, 2009. "Optimal Sticky Prices under Rational Inattention," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 769-803, June.
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  8. Train,Kenneth E., 2009. "Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521766555.
  9. Christopher A. Sims, 2006. "Rational Inattention: Beyond the Linear-Quadratic Case," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 158-163, May.
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  12. Filip Matejka, 2010. "Rationally Inattentive Seller: Sales and Discrete Pricing," 2010 Meeting Papers 420, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Mattsson, Lars-Göran & Voorneveld, Mark & Weibull, Jörgen W., 2004. "Better may be worse: Some monotonicity results and paradoxes in discrete choice," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 558, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 21 Apr 2004.
  14. Filip Matejka, 2010. "Rigid Pricing and Rationally Inattentive Consumer," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp409, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
  15. Mondria, Jordi, 2010. "Portfolio choice, attention allocation, and price comovement," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 145(5), pages 1837-1864, September.
  16. Luigi Paciello & Mirko Wiederholt, 2011. "Exogenous Information, Endogenous Information and Optimal Monetary Policy," EIEF Working Papers Series 1104, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Jan 2011.
  17. Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh & Laura Veldkamp, 2008. "Information Acquisition and Under-Diversification," NBER Working Papers 13904, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Anas, Alex, 1983. "Discrete choice theory, information theory and the multinomial logit and gravity models," Transportation Research Part B: Methodological, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 13-23, February.
  19. Sims, Christopher A., 2003. "Implications of rational inattention," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 665-690, April.
  20. Yulei Luo, 2005. "Consumption Dynamics under Information Processing Constraints," Macroeconomics 0505011, EconWPA, revised 03 Jun 2005.
  21. Faruk Gul & Paulo Natenzon & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2014. "Random Choice as Behavioral Optimization," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82, pages 1873-1912, 09.
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