Yuval Salant
Associate Professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences

Kellogg School of Management
Kellogg KSM


Google Scholar Profile
Research Interests

Foundations of Behavioral Economics, Bounded Rationality, Choice Theory

How to contact me

Mailing address:

MEDS Department
Kellogg School of Management
Northwestern University
2001 Sheridan Rd
Evanston, IL 60208-2001
Email: y-salant@northwestern.edu
Phone: 1-847-4915149

Published and forthcoming papers

1. “Reallocation Costs and Efficiency”, with Ron Siegel, American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, forthcoming

We study the efficient allocation of a divisible asset when reallocation is costly. Two players initially divide an asset between them. At the time of this initial division the players' valuations for the asset are uncertain. After the uncertainty resolves, costly reallocation may take place. We first establish that the surplus associated with efficient reallocation monotonically increases or decreases in the concentration of the initial division for a wide range of cost specifications. We then characterize how the budget necessary to implement the efficient reallocation changes with the initial division.


2. “On the Causes and Consequences of Ballot Order-Effects”, with Marc Meredith, Political Behavior, 35 (2013), No. 1, 175-197

Featured in the Wall Street Journal (online and print), Chicago Tribune (online and print), Postmedia News

We investigate the effect of ballot order on the outcomes of California city council and school board elections. Candidates listed first win office between four and five percentage points more often than expected absent order effects. This first candidate advantage is larger in races with more candidates and for higher quality candidates. The first candidate advantage is similar across contexts: the magnitude of the effect is not statistically distinguishable in city council and in school board elections, in races with and without an open seat, and in races consolidated and not consolidated with statewide general elections. Standard satisficing models cannot fully explain ballot order effects in our dataset of multi-winner elections.


3. “Eliciting Welfare Preferences from Behavioral Datasets”, with Ariel Rubinstein, Review of Economic Studies, 79 (2012), No. 1, 375-387

An individual displays various preference orderings in different payoff-irrelevant circumstances. It is assumed that the variation in the observed preference orderings is the outcome of some cognitive process that distorts the underlying preferences of the individual. We introduce a framework for eliciting the individual's underlying preferences in such cases, and then demonstrate it for two cognitive processes -- satisficing and small assessment errors.


4. “Procedural Analysis of Choice Rules with Applications to Bounded Rationality”, American Economic Review, 101 (2011), No. 2, 724-748

I study how limited abilities to process information affect choice behavior. I model the decision making process by an automaton, and measure the complexity of a specific choice rule by the minimal number of states an automaton implementing the rule uses to process information. I establish that any choice rule that is less complicated than utility maximization displays framing effects. I then prove that choice rules that result from an optimal tradeoff between maximizing utility and minimizing complexity are history-dependent satisficing procedures that display primacy and recency effects.


5. “( A , f ): Choice with Frames”, with Ariel Rubinstein, Review of Economic Studies, 75 (2008), No. 4, 1287-1296

We develop a framework for modeling choice in the presence of framing effects. An extended choice function assigns a chosen element to every pair (A , f ) where A is a set of alternatives and f is a frame. A frame includes observable information that is irrelevant in the rational assessment of the alternatives, but nonetheless affects choice. We relate the new framework to the classical model of choice correspondence. Conditions are identified under which there exists either a transitive or a transitive and complete binary relation R such that an alternative x is chosen in some (A , f ) iff x is R-maximal in the set A. We then demonstrate that the framework of choice correspondence misses information, which is essential to economic modeling and which is incorporated in the extended choice function.


6. “Some Thoughts on the Principle of Revealed Preference”, with Ariel Rubinstein, In Handbooks of Economic Methodologies (Andrew Caplin and Andrew Schotter, eds.), New York: Oxford University Press, 2008, 115-124

The Principle of Revealed Preference is a methodological paradigm whereby observed choices of an individual are used only to reveal her mental preferences. We make three statements about the way that economists view this principle as a modeling guide. First, we argue that there is no escape from including mental entities such as mental preferences in addition to observed choices in economic models. Second, we assert that economists should be looking at models in which an observed choice leads to conclusions other than that the chosen element is always mentally preferred to the other elements in the choice problem. Finally, we claim that there is room for models of choice in which the observable information about a choice situation is richer than just the set of available alternatives and the alternative chosen.


7. “On the Learnability of Majority Rule”, Journal of Economic Theory, 135 (2007), No. 1, 196-213 (Available online at ScienceDirect)

I establish how large a sample of past decisions is required to predict future decisions of a committee with few members. The committee uses majority rule to choose between pairs of alternatives. Each member’s vote is derived from a linear ordering over all the alternatives. I prove that there are cases in which an observer cannot predict precisely any decision of a committee based on its past decisions. Nonetheless, approximate prediction is possible after observing relatively few random past decisions.


8. “A Model of Choice from Lists”, with Ariel Rubinstein, Theoretical Economics, 1 (2006), No. 1, 3-17

The standard economic choice model assumes that the decision maker chooses from sets of alternatives. In contrast, we analyze a choice model in which the decision maker encounters the alternatives in the form of a list. We present two axioms similar in nature to the classical axioms of choice from sets. We show that they characterize all the choice functions from lists that involve the choice of either the first or the last optimal alternative in the list according to some preference relation. We then relate choice functions from lists to the classical notions of choice correspondences and random choice functions.


Working papers

9. “Contracts with Framing”, with Ron Siegel

We study a model of contracts in which a profit-maximizing seller uses framing to influence buyers' purchase behavior. Framing temporarily affects how buyers evaluate different products, and buyers can renege on their purchases after the framing effect wears off. We characterize the optimal contracts with framing and their welfare properties in several settings. Framing that is not too strong reduces total welfare in regulated markets with homogenous buyers, but increases total welfare in markets with heterogenous buyers when the proportion of buyers with low willingness to pay is small.


10. “The Effect of Visual Minority on Children's Choice and Consumption”, with Michal Maimaran

We study how changing the relative frequencies of options in a choice set affects young children’s decision making. In food and non-food choice tasks, we asked four- to five-year-old children to choose from a set in which each option appeared multiple times. When options were visually different from each other, children were more likely to choose the minority option, that is, the option that appeared the fewest number of times in the choice set. In particular, children chose a fruit over crackers when the fruit became the minority option, even though they had a strong preference for crackers when neither option was in minority. Adults did not tend to choose the minority option in similar tasks, suggesting this effect is due to developmental sources.


11. “Isn't everyone like me?: On the presence of self-similarity in strategic interactions”, with Ariel Rubinstein

After playing the Chicken game against an anonymous random opponent, players report their beliefs about their opponent's action. The reported beliefs are not consistent with the standard theory of rational choice, which predicts a negative correlation between a player's action in the Chicken game and the probability he assigns to his opponent choosing the same action. On the other hand, the reported beliefs are influenced by self-similarity considerations, whereby a player tends to think that other players behave similarly to him and thus reports beliefs that gravitate toward his own action. Self-similarity considerations are stronger when players are asked about the distribution of actions in the population of potential opponents than when they are asked about their particular opponent.


Work in progress

12. “Generalized Sampling Equilibrium”, with Josh Cherry

We propose a solution concept called Generalized Sampling Equilibrium (GSE), where players use statistical rather than strategic reasoning when making decisions.  This concept is rooted in the sampling equilibrium of Osborne and Rubinstein (1998, 2003), and accommodates a variety of other statistical reasoning procedures. For a large class of two-action games, we show that the GSE is unique, compare its predictions to those of Nash equilibrium, and characterize how the GSE changes with the size of the sample players obtain.  We also demonstrate the predictions of GSE in several applications, including a labor matching application in which sampling introduces a friction that results in a larger unemployment than in Nash equilibrium.


13. “On the Relevance of Probability Distortions in the Extended Warranties Market”, with Jose Miguel Abito

We study the reasons for the high profits in the extended warranties market. Using data from a big US consumer electronics retailer on extended warranty purchases between 1998 and 2004, we estimate a model in which a profit-maximizing monopolistic seller offers extended warranties to a population of risk-averse consumers who may distort failure probabilities. We find that overweighting of failure probabilities is a relevant factor in determining economic outcomes in this market: without probability overweighting, profits drop by 90% and consumer surplus more than doubles. We also find that probability overweighting is affected by the environment and is reduced with learning: there is less overweighting in online transactions than in in-store transactions, and the likelihood of the same household buying an extended warranty is reduced with time.