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Preference Construction and Housing Choice

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It is firmly established that human decision making can fall short of the standard required in the Behavioral Decision Theory of von Neumann and Morgenstern (von Neumann and Morgenstern, 1944). Consumers in particular seem vulnerable to systematic errors of judgement which affect their choice behaviour, opening the possibility that others might manipulate their preference formation (Thaler, 1980; Simonson and Tversky, 1992). This paper uses several economic experiments to investigate the nature of biases in housing search and choice, considering in particular the role of estate agents as choice architects, influencing behaviour to produce predictable biases in outcomes. The study indicates that consumers are vulnerable to several areas of manipulation consistent with existing literature in consumer choice, and evidence of a new bias, labelled choice pollution effect.

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