Raymond Fisman

Contrast Effects in Sequential Decisions: Evidence from Speed Dating

Coauthor(s): Saurabh Bhargava.


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We provide an empirical test of contrast effects — a bias where a decision-maker perceives information in contrast to what preceded it — in the quasi-experimental context of "speed dating" decisions. We document that prior partner attractiveness reduces the subsequent likelihood of an affirmative dating decision. This relationship is confined to recent interactions, consistent with a perceptual error, but not learning or the presence of a quota in affirmative responses. The contrast effect is driven almost entirely by male evaluators. Additional evidence documents the effect's linearity with respect to prior partner attractiveness, its amplification for partners of moderate attractiveness, and its partial attenuation with accumulated experience.

Exact Citation:
Bhargava, Saurabh, and Raymond Fisman. "Contrast Effects in Sequential Decisions: Evidence from Speed Dating." Columbia Business School, 2012.
Date: 2012