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Base rate neglect for the wealth of populations


  • Diemo Urbig

    () (School of Management and Economics, ENIM Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)


Base rate neglect has been shown to be a very robust bias in human information processing. It has also been show to be ecologically rational in some environments. However, when arguing about base rate neglect usually isolated individuals are considered. I complement these results by showing that in many scenarios of social learning a base rate neglect increases a population's wealth. I thereby strengthen the argument that the presence of base rate neglect could be evolutionary stable. I pick up a model of social learning that has been used to demonstrate the potential benefits of overconfidence. Individuals are confronted with a safe and a risky option. They receive a private signal about the risky option's outcome, they decide in an exogenously given sequence, and they observe decisions of preceding individuals. I first deviate from the original model by incorporating base rates that differ from fifty-fifty and show that under weighting this base rate can be for the wealth of a population. Then I analyse how the optimal base rate neglect reacts to changes in payoffs. I show that for large set of settings under weighting the base rate is still positive, but for a smaller subset it decreases wealth instead

Suggested Citation

  • Diemo Urbig, 2006. "Base rate neglect for the wealth of populations," Computing in Economics and Finance 2006 266, Society for Computational Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:sce:scecfa:266

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Angela A. Hung & Charles R. Plott, 2001. "Information Cascades: Replication and an Extension to Majority Rule and Conformity-Rewarding Institutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1508-1520, December.
    2. David M. Grether, 1980. "Bayes Rule as a Descriptive Model: The Representativeness Heuristic," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 95(3), pages 537-557.
    3. Anderson, Lisa R & Holt, Charles A, 1997. "Information Cascades in the Laboratory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 847-862, December.
    4. Antonio E. Bernardo & Ivo Welch, 2001. "On the Evolution of Overconfidence and Entrepreneurs," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(3), pages 301-330, September.
    5. Chamley,Christophe P., 2004. "Rational Herds," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521530927, May.
    6. Chamley,Christophe P., 2004. "Rational Herds," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521824019, May.
    7. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
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    More about this item


    cognitive biases; base rate neglect; social learning; ecological rationality;

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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