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. “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.


2. “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.


3. “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.


4. “( 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.


5. “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.


6. “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.


7. “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

1. “Reallocation Costs and Efficiency”, with Ron Siegel, Revise & Resubmit at the American Economic Review

We study the efficient allocation of a divisible asset when reallocation is costly. Each of two players is initially allocated a share of the asset. At the time of this initial division the players' valuations for the asset are uncertain. After the uncertainty resolves, costly reallocation may take place. Reallocation costs may depend on the amount reallocated and on players' valuations. We first observe that contracting on the initial division and the reallocation enables the players to attain the highest possible expected surplus for the specified initial division. Our main result then establishes that this maximal expected surplus either monotonically increases or monotonically decreases in the concentration of the initial division for a wide range of reallocation cost specifications.


2. “Contracts with Framing”, with Ron Siegel

We propose a theory of contracts with frames. Frames are used by a contract designer to affect how an agent evaluates various options in the contract. The effect of the frame is not persistent, and the agent can renege on the contract after the effect wears off. We observe that framing does not increase the designer's profit when the agent does not have private information or when framing decreases the agent's willingness to pay. Framing increases profit when it increases willingness to pay in a way that does not distort incentives too much. We characterize the profit-maximizing contract in specific environments, and study applications to price discrimination, insurance, and auctions.


3. “How to Buy Advice”, with Ronen Gradwohl

A decision maker, whose payoff is influenced by an unknown stochastic process, seeks the advice of an advisor, who may be informed about the process. We identify a sufficient condition on the correlation between the advisor's information and the true stochastic process, called conservativeness, for which there exists a strategy D of the decision maker that will yield him an almost first-best payoff in every period. We also demonstrate that without conservativeness no strategy can approximate the first-best payoff.