Learning and Confirmation Bias: Measuring the Impact of First Impressions and Ambiguous Signals

51 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2018

See all articles by Julie R. Agnew

Julie R. Agnew

College of William and Mary - Mason School of Business

Hazel Bateman

UNSW Sydney, CEPAR

Christine Eckert

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) - School of Marketing

Fedor Iskhakov

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR)

Jordan J. Louviere

University of South Australia - Institute for Choice

Susan Thorp

The University of Sydney Business School

Date Written: August 6, 2018

Abstract

We quantify the widespread and significant economic impact of first impressions and confirmation bias in the financial advice market. We use a theoretical learning model and new experimental data to measure how these biases can evolve over time and change clients’ willingness to pay advisers. Our model demonstrates that clients’ confirmation bias will reinforce the effect of first impressions. Our results also lend support, in a new financial context, to theoretical models of learning under limited memory where people use unclear signals to confirm and reinforce their current beliefs. We find that almost two thirds of the participants in our experiment make choices that are consistent with a limited memory updating process: they interpret unclear advice to be good advice when it comes from the adviser they prefer. Our results show that models that account for behavioral factors such as confirmation bias may be needed to explain some financial decisions.

Suggested Citation

Richardson Agnew, Julie and Bateman, Hazel and Eckert, Christine and Iskhakov, Fedor and Louviere, Jordan J. and Thorp, Susan, Learning and Confirmation Bias: Measuring the Impact of First Impressions and Ambiguous Signals (August 6, 2018). UNSW Business School Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3228082 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3228082

Julie Richardson Agnew (Contact Author)

College of William and Mary - Mason School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

Hazel Bateman

UNSW Sydney, CEPAR ( email )

High Street
Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia

Christine Eckert

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) - School of Marketing ( email )

P.O. Box 123
Broadway, NSW 2007
Australia

Fedor Iskhakov

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) ( email )

Level 6 Central Lobby (enter via East Lobby)
Australian School of Business Building
Sydney, New South Wales NSW 2052
Australia

Jordan J. Louviere

University of South Australia - Institute for Choice ( email )

Level 13
140 Arthur Street
North Sydney, New South Wales 2060
Australia

Susan Thorp

The University of Sydney Business School ( email )

Abercrombie Building
H70
The University Of Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia
0290366354 (Phone)

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