Working Paper No. 1145

Differences Attract: An Experimental Study of Focusing in Economic Choice

Published: December 14, 2016Pages: 84Keywords: Individual decision making; Focus; Attention; Salience; Decoy; ExperimentsJEL-codes: D03, D12, C91

Differences Attract: An Experimental Study of Focusing in Economic Choice Ola Andersson, Jim Ingebretsen Carlson and Erik Wengström


Several recent behavioral models of choice build on the idea that decision makers put more weight on attributes in which the available options differ more. We test this assumption in a controlled experiment where such biases will generate choice inconsistencies.

As hypothesized, we find that subjects make more inconsistent choices when we add new options that affect the maximal difference in attributes among the options. Our findings suggest that the decision maker's focus is drawn to attributes that stand out. We also test the focusing effect against theories of decoy effects (asymmetric dominance), but we find that the focus effect dominates.

Ola Andersson

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Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union in a Changing World Order

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This book explores how the European Union responds to the ongoing challenges to the liberal international order. These challenges arise both within the EU itself and beyond its borders, and put into question the values of free trade and liberal democracy. 

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