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Relative Thinking Theory

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  • Ofer H. Azar

    (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

Abstract

The article presents a theory that I denote “Relative Thinking Theory,” which claims that people consider relative differences and not only absolute differences when making various economics decisions, even in those cases where the rational model dictates that people should consider only absolute differences. The article reviews experimental evidence for this behavior, summarizing briefly several experiments I conducted, as well as some earlier related literature. It then discusses how we can think about relative thinking and formalize this behavior. Later, the article addresses several related questions: why do people exhibit relative thinking, whether it is beneficial to do so, and whether experience and education can change relative thinking. Finally, the article explains why firms seem to respond to relative thinking of consumers, and raises additional implications of relative thinking for economics and management.

Suggested Citation

  • Ofer H. Azar, 2005. "Relative Thinking Theory," Microeconomics 0504002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpmi:0504002
    Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 27
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. John W. Pratt & David A. Wise & Richard Zeckhauser, 1979. "Price Differences in almost Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(2), pages 189-211.
    2. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-1061.
    3. Azar, Ofer H., 2007. "Relative thinking theory," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 1-14, February.
    4. Richard H. Thaler, 2008. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 27(1), pages 15-25, 01-02.
    5. Moon, Philip & Keasey, Kevin & Duxbury, Darren, 1999. "Mental accounting and decision making:: The relationship between relative and absolute savings," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 145-153, February.
    6. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    7. Frisch, Deborah, 1993. "Reasons for Framing Effects," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 399-429, April.
    8. Azar, Ofer H., 2009. "Do consumers make too much effort to save on cheap items and too little to save on expensive items? experimental results and implications for business strategy," MPRA Paper 20962, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Alan T. Sorensen, 2000. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion in Retail Markets for Prescription Drugs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 833-862, August.
    10. Thaler, Richard, 1980. "Toward a positive theory of consumer choice," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 39-60, March.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Relative thinking; relative differences; behavioral decision making; behavioral economics; psychological economics; Weber's law; absolute differences; percentages; ratios;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • M30 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - General
    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines

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