Observing the Unobservable: Connecting Persistent Emotional State to Behavior in Risky Contexts

61 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2023

See all articles by Jude Bayham

Jude Bayham

Colorado State University

Yichun Fan

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Real Estate

Eli P. Fenichel

Yale University - School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Juan Palacios

Maastricht University

Siqi Zheng

Samuel Talk Lee Professor of Urban and Real Estate Sustainability, Faculty Director of MIT Center for Real Estate

Date Written: December 15, 2023

Abstract

Economists rely on experiments and surveys to measure typically unobserved subjective attributes, e.g., preference, belief, and emotion, that are important for understanding human behaviors. Dependence on these data collection modes limits the ability to connect subjective traits with behavior in a large-scale natural setting. Here, we use posts on social media platforms and natural language processing to infer individuals’ persistent emotional state, and link this attribute to the behavior of 500,000 individuals during the COVID−19 pandemic. We find that fearfulness is a persistent trait associated with specific individuals overtime rather than associated solely with a single experience and that these high-fear individuals reduce out−of−home activities 4.2-6.9 percent more than low-fear individuals. The ability to observe subjective attributes at scale can enable better identified economic measures and better targeted economic policy.

Suggested Citation

Bayham, Jude and Fan, Yichun and Fenichel, Eli P. and Palacios, Juan and Zheng, Siqi, Observing the Unobservable: Connecting Persistent Emotional State to Behavior in Risky Contexts (December 15, 2023). MIT Center for Real Estate Research Paper No. 23/22, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4665623 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4665623

Jude Bayham (Contact Author)

Colorado State University ( email )

Fort Collins, CO 80523
United States

Yichun Fan

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Real Estate ( email )

Eli P. Fenichel

Yale University - School of Forestry and Environmental Studies ( email )

New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Juan Palacios

Maastricht University ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200MD
Netherlands

Siqi Zheng

Samuel Talk Lee Professor of Urban and Real Estate Sustainability, Faculty Director of MIT Center for Real Estate ( email )

Building 9-323
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://siqizheng.mit.edu/

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