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University of Michigan School of Information


Social, Behavioral and Experimental Economics Seminar: Frank Schilbach

“SBEE Seminar Series. Guest speakers on topics of social, behavioral and experimental economics. Co-sponsored by the School of Information, the Ross School of Business and the LSA Economics Dept. Not Learning from Others + Learning in the Household. Frank Schilbach. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tuesday, Sept. 29. 4-5:15 pm. Online via Zoom.”

09/27/2022 4:00 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

Not Learning from Others + Learning in the Household 

We provide evidence of a powerful barrier to social learning: People are much less sensitive to information others discover compared to equally relevant information they discover themselves. In a series of incentivized lab experiments, we ask participants to guess the color composition of balls in an urn after drawing balls with replacement. Participants’ guesses are substantially less sensitive to draws made by another player compared to draws made themselves. This result holds when others’ signals must be learned through discussion, when they are perfectly communicated by the experimenter, and even when participants see their teammate drawing balls from the urn with their own eyes. We find a crucial role for taking some action to generate one’s ‘own’ information, and rule out distrust, confusion, errors in probabilistic thinking, up-front inattention and imperfect recall as channels. Finally, using a separate experiment with married couples, we provide some evidence that this phenomenon also occurs within the household. However, unlike their husbands, wives do not discount their husband's information, thus providing evidence of gender differences in social learning (only) in the household.

Speaker bio: 

Frank Schilbach

Frank Schilbach is an associate professor of economics at MIT. His research explores the relationship between poverty and economic behavior by investigating factors associated with poverty, including mental distress, sleep deprivation and substance abuse. In a second line of research, he studies behavioral barriers to the diffusion of information in developing countries. His work advances a broader research agenda that seeks to integrate insights from psychology and related fields into development economics.

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