A Satisficing Model of Consumer Behavior

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Title: A Satisficing Model of Consumer Behavior
Author: Ryan, Mark Joseph, 1978-
Abstract: I develop a model in which a representative consumer selects an affordable consumption bundle, not as a single choice, but as the end result of a series of smaller, incremental purchase decisions. If the array of such incremental choices facing the consumer is sufficiently complex relative to the consumer's computational abilities, then the consumer may choose to employ a simplifying heuristic or rule-of-thumb to guide her behavior. I demonstrate the existence of a simple and well-defined example of such a strategy, based upon a satisficing decision rule. I further show that in the strategic setting defined by the interaction between consumers and firms that compete in prices, this satisficing strategy can form part of a Nash equilibrium, despite being ex ante only boundedly rational. The use of this satisficing demand strategy fundamentally alters the nature of price competition between firms (relative to the standard Bertrand model), changing the shape of the firm best response functions. The use of a satisficing strategy alters the incentives of firms, and these altered firm incentives lead to pricing behavior which has the effect of rationalizing the satisficing consumption strategy, so that a truly novel class of Nash equilibria in price-competing markets can be shown to exist under certain conditions. We explore the nature of this new class of equilibria, and find that equilibrium prices may be higher than those which would be obtained in the standard Bertrand case. In general, demand curves for each distinct good will have a kinked shape, similar to those found in 1939 papers by both Sweezy and Hall & Hitch. The Nash equilibrium profile will involve the kink in each demand curve coinciding with the equilibrium price for the corresponding good. The equilibrium price vector will therefore be robust to "small" fluctuations in cost (since marginal revenue is discontinuous at the equilibrium price), and under certain conditions, we find that prices may be upwardly flexible but downwardly rigid. We make an argument that the main results of the paper generalize from a representative agent setting to one with a population of heterogeneous consumers.
Description: xiii, 230 p. : ill. (some col.)
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/12095
Date: 2011-09


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