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Economic Journal

Differences Attract: An Experimental Study of Focusing in Economic Choice

Journal Article
Andersson, Ola, Jim Ingebretsen Carlson and Erik Wengström (2021). “Differences Attract: An Experimental Study of Focusing in Economic Choice”. Economic Journal 131(639), 2671–2692.

Ola Andersson, Jim Ingebretsen Carlson, Erik Wengström

Several behavioural models of choice assume that decision makers place more weight on attributes where options differ more, an assumption we test in a set of experiments. We find that subjects are more likely to choose an option when we add options increasing the maximal difference in the original option’s strongest attribute, suggesting that the decision maker’s focus is drawn to attributes with a high spread. Additional experiments corroborate this finding. Still, we document that the focusing effect diminishes when options are presented using numbers instead of graphs or when subjects are forced to wait before submitting their answers.