Working Papers

Failing to Learn from Others. With John Conlon, Gautam Rao, Matthew Ridley, Frank Schilbach.

Revised and Resubmitted, Econometrica

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.

Learning in the Household. With John Conlon, Gautam Rao, Matthew Ridley, Frank Schilbach.

Do spouses pool useful information and learn from each other when they have incentives to do so? In an experiment with married couples in India, we vary whether individuals discover information themselves or must instead learn via a discussion what their spouse discovered. Women treat their own and their husband's information the same. In contrast, men respond half as much to information discovered by their wife, even when it is perfectly communicated. When paired with strangers, both men and women heavily discount their partner's information relative to their own. We thus provide evidence of a gender difference in social learning (only) in the household.