Microfoundations for switching behavior in heterogeneous agent models: An experiment

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Journal Article
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2016, 129 pp. 74 - 99
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© 2016 Elsevier B.V. We run a laboratory experiment to study how human subjects switch between several profitable alternatives, framed as mutual funds, in order to provide a microfoundation for so-called heterogeneous agent models. The participants in our experiment have to choose repeatedly between two, three or four experimental funds. The time series of fund returns are exogenously generated prior to the experiment and participants are paid for each period according to the return of the fund they choose. For most cases participants’ decisions can be successfully described by a discrete choice switching model, often applied in heterogeneous agent models, provided that a predisposition toward one of the funds is included. The estimated intensity of choice parameter of the discrete choice model depends on the structure of the fund returns. In particular, it increases with correlation between past and future returns. This suggests human subjects do not myopically chase past returns, but are more likely to do so when past returns are more predictive of future returns, a feature that is absent in the standard heterogeneous agent models.
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