Market forces meet behavioral biases: Cost misallocation and irrational pricing

Nabil Al-Najjar*, Sandeep Baliga, David Besanko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Psychological and experimental evidence, as well as a wealth of anecdotal examples, suggests that firms may confound fixed, sunk, and variable costs, leading to distorted pricing decisions. This article investigates the extent to which market forces and learning eventually eliminate these distortions. We envision firms that experiment with cost methodologies that are consistent with real-world accounting practices, including ones that confuse the relevance of variable, fixed, and sunk costs to pricing decisions. Firms follow "naive " adaptive learning to adjust prices and reinforcement learning to modify their costing methodologies. Costing and pricing practices that increase profits are reinforced. In some market structures, but not in others, this process of reinforcement causes pricing practices of all firms to systematically depart from standard equilibrium predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-237
Number of pages24
JournalRAND Journal of Economics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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