Behavioral EconomicsSo far, we have assumed utility maximizing behavior or profit maximizing behavior on the part of economic agents. Economic agents make mistakes. Do we learn from those mistakes? Mistakes do not necessarily violate the assumption of utility or profit maximization.However, if we continue to make the same mistakes, or, if people make mistakes in the same way, then the assumptions of utility maximization or profit maximization may be suspect.Behavioral economics is an attempt by some researchers to redefine economic decision-making with a psychological foundation.Behavioral economics accounts for behavior like procrastination, self control, envy, revenge, love, the madness of crowds, bandwagon effects, snob effects, etc.
Some researchers in behavioral economics and behavioral financeDaniel Kahneman (economist) and Amos Tversky (psychologist) Econometrica (1979) Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk in Kent LibraryRichard Thaler (economist)- The Winner`s Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life - in Kent Library..Nudge, In Kent Library.Robert Shiller (financial economist)-Irrational Exuberance -in Kent LibraryMatthew Rabin-(economist) Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics The American Economic Review, 1993. In Kent Library
Some perceived regularities in decision-making that seem to be inconsistent with utility maximization.Framing Effects-frame is the combination of beliefs, values, attitudes, mental models, and so on which we use to perceive a situation. We effectively look through this frame in the way we would look through tinted spectacles. The frame significantly effects how we infer meaning and hence, understand the situation.Kahneman and Tversky defined a decision frame as the decision-makers conception of the act, outcomes and contingencies associated with a particular choice.
Tversky and Kahneman told people to assume there was disease affecting 600 people and they had two choices:Program A, where 200 of the 600 people will be saved .Program B, where there is 33% chance that all 600 people will be saved, and 66% chance that nobody will be saved. Expected value of program B is 200 lives saved (and 400 people will die).The majority of people selected A, showing a preference for certainty or risk aversion.They then offered them another two choices:Program C,where 400 people will die, 200 people live.Program D, where there is a 33% chance that nobody will die, and 66% chance that all 600 people will die. Expected value of D is 200 people live and 400 people die. Same as program B.Most people now selected D, seeking to avoid the loss of 400 people.Notice how the framing makes the difference. Prospects A and C are the same, and B and D are the same.Framing the prospect as a gain makes people risk averse. Framing the prospect as a loss makes people risk takers.
Anchoring effects-Initial impressions become reference points that anchor subsequent thoughts and judgments.Salesperson has three items for sale-expensive, medium high priced, and cheap. Show the customer the expensive item first, which acts as an anchor. Makes it easier to sell the medium high priced item.Dramatic or easy-to-recall events often become strong anchors. For example, the vividness of the horrible events of September 11 caused many to view airline travel as too risky, but many experts believe that travel has never been safer.
The endowment effect-Once people possess an item they frequently will not accept a money amount greater than the amount the individual originally paid for the item. An example: Some people wont throw away junk, but store it in storage units etc.
Endowment effect often arises because of loss aversion. Loss Aversion: The disutility of giving up an object is greater than the utility associated with acquiring it. Examples: People are often reluctant to sell a stock that has performed poorly until it is back to the price it was originally bought at.Battered women often return to jerks who beat them.You want to sell your house which you bought for $105,000. However, given current market conditions, your house is only worth $100,000. You receive an offer for $100,000. Interest rates are 7%. You turn down the offer. You correctly assume you will receive an offer for $106,000 one year from today.
Status Quo Bias: One implication of loss aversion is that individuals have a strong tendency to remain at the status quo, because the disadvantages (or disutility) of leaving it loom larger than advantages (utility).An implication of the endowment effect is that people treat opportunity costs differently than out-of-pocket expenses. Foregone gains are less painful than perceived losses.
Fairness and the Pareto PrincipleThe Pareto principle: if a trade makes at least one person better off and no one worse off then the trade is Pareto improving. Experiment: two individuals have to decide how to distribute a given amount of money between themselves. If they can agree, they get to divide the money as to their agreement. Person D (the dictator) makes a proposal. Person C (the citizen) either agrees or disagrees. If C agrees with the proposal then the proceeds are divided. If C disagrees, then C and D get nothing.
Prospect theory vs. Expected utility theory Expected utility theory suggests that individuals can determine expected values of risky prospects and make choices consistent with utility maximization. Prospect theory-people are not good intuitive statisticians. Likely outcomes are estimated to be less probable than they really are; and outcomes that are quite unlikely are typically estimated to be more probable than they are. Furthermore, people often behave as if extremely unlikely, but still possible, outcomes have no chance whatsoever of occurring.
Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice and she participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations. Which of the following statements are more probable?A. Linda is a teacher in an elementary school.B. Linda works as a bank teller.C. Linda is active in the feminist movement.D. Linda works in a bookstore.E. Linda is a member of the League of women voters.F. Linda takes yoga classes.G. Linda is an insurance salesperson.H. Linda works in a bookstore, takes yoga classes, and is active in the feminist movement.
Perceptual Contrasting Effects-When we make decisions, we tend to do it by contrasting between the decision item and reference items. When two things appear close to one another, we will tend to evaluate them against one another more than against a fixed standard.When you meet two other people, you are likely to compare each against the other on several dimensions to decide whom you prefer. This may include physical beauty, similarity of interests, and various personality factors.A simple physical way of illustrating perceptual contrast is to put one hand into hot water and the other into cold water, then move both hands to lukewarm water. The cold hand will feel hot and the hot hand will feel cold.To make something look good, first show something of inferior quality. Or, to get someone to buy something expensive, first show them something even more expensive.
Self control and gift giving-The economics of Christmas-Some economists (but not me) would argue that there is a deadweight loss to Christmas. People prefer money so they can buy what they want, rather than the gift which frequently has a lower marginal utility value than money.
Consider the dilemma of a couple who enjoy drinking a bottle of wine with dinner. They might decide that they can afford to spend only $10 a night on wine and so limit their purchases to wines that cost $10 a bottle on average, with no bottle costing more than $20.
This policy might not be optimal in the sense that an occasional $30 bottle of champagne would be worth more than $30 to them, but they don't trust themselves to resist the temptation to increase their wine budget unreasonably if they break the $20 barrier. An implication is that this couple would greatly enjoy gifts of wine that are above their usual budget constraint. Instead the mental accounting analysis suggests that the best gifts are somewhat more luxurious than the recipient normally buys, consistent with the conventional advice (of non-economists), which is to buy people something they want, but wouldn't buy for themselves.
Other self-control problemsIf we expand the choice set (the budget set) that individuals face are they better or worse off?Is it appropriate to give gifts of food to a person who is trying to diet and lose weight?Should we offer an alcoholic a drink?Should we take a compulsive gamble to a casino to see a show?
Public Policy and Self-ControlPrograms such as food stamps and other welfare programs expand the choice set of individuals who receive those benefits.Does it make them better off?Many poor individuals have the worst problems with self-control. They have very high discount rates and care about the present more than the future.
Current consumptionFuture ConsumptionABU=10 utilsU=15 utilsC
Welfare programs expand an individuals choice set.If the person is already at B because they irrationally (or irresponsibly) make decisions, then an expansion of their budget set might allow them to be even more irrational and move toward C.
Time inconsistencyHyperbolic discounting-people generally prefer smaller, sooner payoffs to larger, later payoffs when the smaller payoffs would be imminent; but when the same payoffs are distant in time, people tend to prefer