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Economic Agents as Imperfect Problem Solvers


  • Rosen Valchev

    (Boston College)

  • Cosmin Ilut

    (Duke University)


In this paper, we study a bounded rationality model where agents find it costly to solve economic problems, even if state variables are perfectly observed. We analyze how this hypothesis is complementary, but distinct, from the traditional approach of `information constraints', where agents are limited in the proper perception of state variables. We consider several classic economic problems, with a particular focus on macroeconomic models, to derive observable implications that differentiate our proposed friction from the existing bounded rationality approaches. The model generates state-dependent decision rules characterized by inaction, as well as by under- or over-reaction. In terms of policy implications, we show how the cognition friction can change inference on the underlying sources of economic mechanisms and shocks.

Suggested Citation

  • Rosen Valchev & Cosmin Ilut, 2017. "Economic Agents as Imperfect Problem Solvers," 2017 Meeting Papers 1285, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed017:1285

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andreas Fagereng & Martin B. Holm & Gisle J. Natvik, 2021. "MPC Heterogeneity and Household Balance Sheets," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 1-54, October.
    2. Arna Olafsson & Michaela Pagel, 2018. "The Liquid Hand-to-Mouth: Evidence from Personal Finance Management Software," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 31(11), pages 4398-4446.
    3. Cosmin Ilut & Rosen Valchev & Nicolas Vincent, 2020. "Paralyzed by Fear: Rigid and Discrete Pricing Under Demand Uncertainty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 88(5), pages 1899-1938, September.
    4. Mariana García-Schmidt & Michael Woodford, 2019. "Are Low Interest Rates Deflationary? A Paradox of Perfect-Foresight Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(1), pages 86-120, January.
    5. Herbert A. Simon, 1955. "A Behavioral Model of Rational Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(1), pages 99-118.
    6. Julian Kozlowski & Laura Veldkamp & Venky Venkateswaran, 2020. "The Tail That Wags the Economy: Beliefs and Persistent Stagnation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 128(8), pages 2839-2879.
    7. Xavier Gabaix, 2014. "A Sparsity-Based Model of Bounded Rationality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(4), pages 1661-1710.
    8. Matthias Klaes & Esther-Mirjam Sent, 2005. "A Conceptual History of the Emergence of Bounded Rationality," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 37(1), pages 27-59, Spring.
    9. Luminita Stevens, 2020. "Coarse Pricing Policies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(1), pages 420-453.
    10. Frederick Mosteller & Philip Nogee, 1951. "An Experimental Measurement of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59, pages 371-371.
    11. Sargent, Thomas J., 1993. "Bounded Rationality in Macroeconomics: The Arne Ryde Memorial Lectures," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288695.
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    Cited by:

    1. Carstensen, Kai & Bachmann, Rüdiger & Schneider, Martin & Lautenbacher, Stefan, 2018. "Uncertainty is Change," VfS Annual Conference 2018 (Freiburg, Breisgau): Digital Economy 181572, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    2. Francesco D’Acunto & Daniel Hoang & Michael Weber, 2020. "Managing Households' Expectations with Unconventional Policies," NBER Working Papers 27399, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. D'Acunto, Francesco & Hoang, Daniel & Paloviita, Maritta & Weber, Michael, 2019. "IQ, Expectations, and Choice," Research Discussion Papers 2/2019, Bank of Finland.
    4. Nimark, Kristoffer P. & Sundaresan, Savitar, 2019. "Inattention and belief polarization," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 180(C), pages 203-228.
    5. Andrade, Philippe & Gautier, Erwan & Mengus, Eric, 2020. "What Matters in Households' Inflation Expectations?," CEPR Discussion Papers 14905, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Francesco D'Acunto & Daniel Hoang & Maritta Paloviita & Michael Weber, 2019. "Human Frictions to the Transmission of Economic Policy," 2019 Meeting Papers 339, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    7. George-Marios Angeletos & Karthik Sastry, 2019. "Inattentive Economies," NBER Working Papers 26413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Hassan Afrouzi, 2020. "Strategic Inattention, Inflation Dynamics, and the Non-Neutrality of Money," CESifo Working Paper Series 8218, CESifo.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C11 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Bayesian Analysis: General
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E71 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on the Macro Economy

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