An Economic Approach to the Psychology of Change: Amnesia, Inertia, and Impulsiveness

Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 379-421, Fall 2002

Posted: 1 Dec 2008

See all articles by David A. Hirshleifer

David A. Hirshleifer

University of California, Irvine - Paul Merage School of Business; NBER

Ivo Welch

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Abstract

This paper models how imperfect memory affects the optimal continuity of policies. We examine the choices of a player (individual or firm) who observes previous actions but cannot remember the rationale for these actions. In a stable environment, the player optimally responds to memory loss with excess inertia, defined as a higher probability of following old policies than would occur under full recall. In a volatile environment, the player can exhibit excess impulsiveness (i.e., be more prone to follow new information signals). The model provides a memory-loss explanation for some documented psychological biases, implies that inertia and organizational routines should be more important in stable environments than in volatile ones, and provides other empirical implications relating memory and environmental variables to the continuity of decisions.

Suggested Citation

Hirshleifer, David A. and Welch, Ivo, An Economic Approach to the Psychology of Change: Amnesia, Inertia, and Impulsiveness. Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 379-421, Fall 2002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1288974

David A. Hirshleifer (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Paul Merage School of Business ( email )

Irvine, CA California 92697-3125
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.uci.edu/dhirshle/

NBER ( email )

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Ivo Welch

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

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Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States
310-825-2508 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.ivo-welch.info

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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