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.
The American Economic Review is a general-interest economics journal. The journal is published quarterly and contains articles on a broad range of topics. Established in 1911, the AER is among the nation's oldest and most respected scholarly journals in the economics profession.