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An Offer You Can't Refuse? Incentives Change How We Inform Ourselves and What We Believe

Sandro Ambuehl

No 6296, CESifo Working Paper Series from CESifo Group Munich

Abstract: Economists often espouse incentives, arguing that expanding choice sets cannot lower welfare. Yet, laws worldwide restrict incentives for many transactions, partly due to an untested concern that incentives cause poor decisions. I show experimentally that incentives skew information gathering and beliefs about what a transaction entails in a way that causally influences the participation decision, as policy makers suspected. A model of costly information acquisition shows this behavior is consistent with rationality, and thus unconcerning from an ex ante welfare economic perspective, but demands consideration under reasonable alternatives. The mechanisms apply in any situation where incentives interact with information acquisition.

Keywords: incentives; repugnant transactions; information acquisition; inattention; experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D03 D04 D84 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-des and nep-hrm
Date: 2017
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