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Essays in Access-Based Beliefs


This dissertation studies a notion called access-based beliefs, the idea that access to an alternative has a direct impact on beliefs of its value. As an example, individual's may lower their beliefs of alternatives to which they have low access, a phenomenon colloquially known as sour grapes. Using multiple settings in the lab and field, I demonstrate existence of access-based beliefs consistent with the sour grapes hypothesis and provide evidence for how it may be prevalent in real-world settings with an emphasis on the poor. In chapter 1, in an environment where learning channels are controlled for, I provide a proof-of-concept of access-based beliefs, showing that lower access to a subjective lottery reduces revealed beliefs of its value. In chapter 2, I study access-based beliefs in a real-world setting. I show that lowering access to a real-world investment (an SAT prep package) lowers beliefs of its expected effectiveness and reduces investment in it amongst a subsample of the population that would be expected to have the highest demand for it. In chapter 3, I explore the notion of relative access, that is, the value of an alternative is a function of whether or not others possess it. I find that a small but significant portion of individuals display a preference for conformity or non-conformity in consumption based on the societal distribution.

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