Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets

37 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2006 Last revised: 16 Aug 2010

See all articles by Xavier Gabaix

Xavier Gabaix

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

David Laibson

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2005

Abstract

Bayesian consumers infer that hidden add-on prices (e.g. the cost of ink for a printer) are likely to be high prices. If consumers are Bayesian, firms will not shroud information in equilibrium. However, shrouding may occur in an economy with some myopic (or unaware) consumers. Such shrouding creates an inefficiency, which firms may have an incentive to eliminate by educating their competitors' customers. However, if add-ons have close substitutes, a "curse of debiasing" arises, and firms will not be able to profitably debias consumers by unshrouding add-ons. In equilibrium, two kinds of exploitation coexist. Optimizing firms exploit myopic consumers through marketing schemes that shroud high-priced add-ons. In turn, sophisticated consumers exploit these marketing schemes. It is not possible to profitably drive away the business of sophisticates. It is also not possible to profitably lure either myopes or sophisticates to non-exploitative firms. We show that informational shrouding flourishes even in highly competitive markets, even in markets with costless advertising, and even when the shrouding generates allocational inefficiencies.

Suggested Citation

Gabaix, Xavier and Laibson, David I., Shrouded Attributes, Consumer Myopia, and Information Suppression in Competitive Markets (November 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11755. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=847027

Xavier Gabaix (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

European Corporate Governance Institute (ECGI)

c/o ECARES ULB CP 114
B-1050 Brussels
Belgium

David I. Laibson

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Room M-14
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-3402 (Phone)
617-495-8570 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
57
Abstract Views
1,035
rank
5,453
PlumX Metrics