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Ownership, Learning, and Beliefs*
The Quarterly Journal of Economics  (IF11.375),  Pub Date : 2021-04-13, DOI: 10.1093/qje/qjab010
Hartzmark S, Hirshman S, Imas A.

We examine how owning a good affects learning and beliefs about its quality. We show that people have more extreme reactions to information about a good they own compared with the same information about a nonowned good: ownership causes more optimistic beliefs after receiving a positive signal and more pessimistic beliefs after receiving a negative signal. Comparing learning to normative benchmarks reveals that people overextrapolate from signals about goods they own, which leads to an overreaction to information; in contrast, learning is close to Bayesian for nonowned goods. We provide direct evidence that this effect is driven by ownership channeling greater attention toward associated information, which leads people to overweight recent signals when forming beliefs. The relationship between ownership and beliefs has testable implications for trade and market expectations. In line with these predictions, we show that the endowment effect doubles in response to positive information and disappears with negative information, and demonstrate a significant relationship between ownership and overextrapolation in survey data about stock market expectations.