Theoretical Economics, Volume 6, Number 1 (January 2011)

Theoretical Economics 6 (2011), 19–48

Search, choice, and revealed preference

Andrew Caplin, Mark Dean


With complete information, choice of one option over another conveys preference. Yet when search is incomplete, this is not necessarily the case. It may instead reflect unawareness that a superior alternative was available. To separate these phenomena, we consider non-standard data on the evolution of provisional choices with contemplation time. We characterize precisely when the resulting data could have been generated by a general form of sequential search. We characterize also search that terminates based on a reservation utility stopping rule. We outline an experimental design that captures provisional choices in the pre-decision period.

Keywords: Revealed preference, search theory, stochastic choice

JEL classification: D11, D83

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