Published on Development Impact

Blog Links April 19: Over-generalization, framing financial literacy, fake resumes, and more…

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·         The Indecision blog continues its series on the 7 sins of consumer psychology research - number 6 on over-generalization is a useful read: “Once an effect has been reported in a published paper (especially if it is by a famous author in a prestigious journal), we tend to treat it as gospel, again forgetting that this effect may be more context-specific than a quick reading of the paper may reveal…A good example is the work on the “too-much-choice effect” by Sheena Iyengar: the famous-jam-in- supermarket study. This is a great study and the results are very important. However, if you read the paper carefully, you will see that the effect is very specific and that the authors were very particular in the way they conducted the study. For example, all the jams were from a single brand and only unfamiliar flavors were selected. Yet after the paper was published and received a lot of attention, the fine prints of the study—which the authors carefully disclosed in the paper—were quickly forgotten, and the field began to take it for granted that “consumers do not like when they have too much choice.” It turns out, however, that the effect is very fickle. In a meta-analysis by Scheibehenne and colleagues (2010), the basic effect was found in only a small number of studies; the reverse effect was found in an equal number of studies; and the majority of studies showed no significant effect.”. The whole series of 7 posts is worth a read if you are interested in behavioral decision-making.

·         A new review of financial literacy by Lusardi and Mitchell. Readers of this blog might be interested in page 15, which describes how small changes in the way a question is asked can impact on the level of measured financial literacy – half the respondents are asked “Buying a company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund. True or false?” and the other half “Buying a stock mutual fund usually provides a safer return than a company stock. True or false?” - the fraction of correct responses doubles given the second wording rather than the first.

·         More interesting evidence from fake resume experiments – the Washington Post’s Wonkblog covers an experiment that varied experience and time out of work: “employers would rather call back someone with no relevant experience who’s only been out of work for a few months than someone with more relevant experience who’s been out of work for longer than six months.”

·         How to import a table from PDF into Excel from the Economics network (h/t @IanRossUK)

·         The IDB’s Development that Works blog highlights findings from three recent experiments on incentives in education.

·         A list of Impact Evaluation databases and request for anyone who knows of other ones to tell the CGD.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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