Abstract

https://ssrn.com/abstract=2656268
 


 



A Sharp Test of the Portability of Expertise


Etan A. Green


Wharton - Operations, Information and Decisions

Justin M. Rao


Microsoft Research; Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research - Redmond

David M. Rothschild


Microsoft Research - NYC

September 5, 2016


Abstract:     
As-if justifications of rationality contend that economic actors approximate optimal behavior through heuristics. We evaluate this contention by observing experts perform a task that is logically isomorphic to — but contextually distinct from — a familiar task in which they are skilled. We find that performance plummets when contextual cues disappear, implying that the expertise we observe on the familiar task is more heuristic than conceptual and does not travel far. Our results provide support for as-if justifications: with experience in a domain, actors develop heuristics that are adaptive in that setting. Our results also delineate bounds on such justifications, showing that heuristics can fail even in contexts with the same logical structure. This observation entails a normative implication for experimental design. If economic actors approximate rationality though context-dependent heuristics, then studies which abstract away contextual cues bias their findings against standard theories of rationality.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: expertise, field vs. lab, probabilistic judgment

JEL Classification: D81, C91, C93


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Date posted: September 5, 2015 ; Last revised: September 9, 2016

Suggested Citation

Green, Etan A. and Rao, Justin M. and Rothschild, David M., A Sharp Test of the Portability of Expertise (September 5, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2656268 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2656268

Contact Information

Etan A. Green (Contact Author)
Wharton - Operations, Information and Decisions ( email )
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Justin M. Rao
Microsoft Research ( email )
641 Avenue of Americas
7th Floor
New York, NY 11249
United States
Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research - Redmond ( email )
Building 99
Redmond, WA
United States
David M. Rothschild
Microsoft Research - NYC ( email )
641 6th Ave., 7th Floor
New York, NY 10011
United States

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