Handbook of Behavioral Industrial Organization
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Handbook of Behavioral Industrial Organization

Edited by Victor J. Tremblay, Elizabeth Schroeder and Carol Horton Tremblay

The Handbook of Behavioral Industrial Organization integrates behavioral economics into industrial organization. Chapters cover concepts such as relative thinking, salience, shrouded attributes, cognitive dissonance, motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, overconfidence, status quo bias, social cooperation and identity. Additional chapters consider industry issues, such as sports and gambling industries, neuroeconomic studies of brands and advertising, and behavioral antitrust law. The Handbook features a wide array of methods (literature surveys, experimental and econometric research, and theoretical modelling), facilitating accessibility to a wide audience.
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Chapter 3: Shrouded attributes, consumer myopia and information suppression in competitive markets

Xavier Gabaix and David Laibson

Abstract

Bayesian consumers infer that hidden add-on prices (e.g., the cost of ink for a printer) are likely to be high prices. If consumers are Bayesian, firms will not shroud information in equilibrium. However, shrouding may occur in an economy with some myopic (or unaware) consumers. Such shrouding creates an inefficiency, which firms may have an incentive to eliminate by educating their competitors’ customers. However, if add-ons have close substitutes, a “curse of debiasing” arises, and firms will not be able to debias consumers profitably by unshrouding add-ons. In equilibrium, two kinds of exploitation coexist. Optimizing firms exploit myopic consumers through marketing schemes that shroud high-priced add-ons. In turn, sophisticated consumers exploit these marketing schemes. It is not possible to profitably drive away the business of sophisticates. It is also not possible to profitably lure either myopes or sophisticates to non-exploitative firms. We show that informational shrouding flourishes even in highly competitive markets, even in markets with costless advertising, and even when the shrouding generates allocational inefficiencies.

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