PhD Defence: The role of attention and information for behavioral change


On Friday 3 February 2023 at 14.15 hrs. Bora Lancee will defend her PhD thesis The role of attention and information for behavioral change.

Traditional economic models assume an all-knowing decision-maker, one that incorporates all the available information needed to make the best decision. The early work of Hayek and Sigler challenged this idea and they put forth the importance of limits on knowledge. This stream of research was the basis for many scholars to work on information research, and consequentially information scarcity was incorporated into economic modeling. Yet in the 21st-century information scarcity is less and less important,  as the digital revolution has led to an abundance of information. This leads to a shift from external scarcity of information to internal scarcity of limited attention to incorporate information. It’s no longer the limits on information but the limits on attention that determine the choices of the decision-maker.

Bora Lancee’s dissertation contains four experimental research projects, where she discusses a simple framework that can be used to incorporate attention into decision-making. On top of that, she discusses multiple interventions related to information search and attention in the policy realm.

To specify, in the second chapter, she discusses the abstract framework and tests a simple intervention to optimize search behaviour in an abstract game with multi-attribute search. She communicates the optimal amount of search in terms of search actions and sees if attention moderates the behavioural change and if the intervention also has an effect on the depth of search.

In the third chapter, She discusses a social nudge intervention to steer the type of information used for early-stage policymaking in collaboration with civil servants working in a mid-size municipality. In this chapter, she discusses both search behaviour in an abstract setting, similar to the second chapter, and compares it to more case-specific search behaviour in a  municipality with a vignette experiment.

In chapter four, multiple interventions in terms of boosting and nudging are discussed in a purchasing context for ongoing policy development. Here she studies the choice of currency payment (DCC) of customers making payments abroad. This chapter discusses the effect of markups on DCC choice, the effect of information provision, in line with EU policy on DCC choice, and lastly the effect of defaults on DCC choice.

Lastly, in chapter five the results of inattention in policy execution are discussed in the tax realm and discussed what happens when tax audits are imprecise. She experimentally studies the behaviour of taxpayers when the tax agency sometimes overestimates income, which could lead to false accusations of cheating, similar to the false accusations of the “toeslagen affaire”.

Bora Lancee is researcher at the Inspection of Education and a PhD student at the Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.).

Start date and time
End date and time
University Hall Domplein 29, Utrecht and online.
PhD candidate
B.S. Lancee
The role of attention and information for behavioral change
PhD supervisor(s)
Prof. S. Rosenkranz
dr. J.P.C. Rigtering