We are all behavioral, more or less: A taxonomy of consumer decision making

Victor Stango, UC Davis Graduate School of Management and Jonathan Zinman, Dartmouth College

We examine how 17 behavioral biases relate to each other, to three standard measures of risk and time preferences, to cognitive skills, personality, and demographics, and to outcomes in household finance, well-being, and health. Most consumers in our nationally representative panel data exhibit multiple biases, with substantial cross-person heterogeneity. Biases are positively correlated within person, especially after adjusting for measurement error. From that correlation structure, we reduce our 20 bias and standard preference measures to four behavioral common factors. Each BCF reflects a group of related biases re: beliefs, decision quality, discounting, or risk/uncertainty attitudes. The first two BCFs also strongly correlate with each other (positively) and cognitive skills (negatively). The first three BCFs and cognitive skills strongly correlate with various outcomes in the expected directions. Our results support processing-based models where basic limitations in cognition and/or attention produce multiple biases, and have several other implications for theory and practice.