Observational Learning: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Field Experiment

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We report results from a randomized natural field experiment conducted in a restaurant dining setting to distinguish the observational learning effect from the saliency effect. We find that, when customers are given ranking information of the five most popular dishes, the demand for those dishes increases by 13 to 20 percent. We do not find a significant saliency effect. We also find modest evidence that the observational learning effects are stronger among infrequent customers, and that dining satisfaction is increased when customers are presented with the information of the top five dishes, but not when presented with only names of some sample dishes.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.99.3.864

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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