Research Department Working Papers
Rationally Inattentive Savers and Monetary Policy Changes: A Laboratory Experiment
Abstract: We present a model where rationally inattentive agents decide how much to save while imperfectly tracking interest rate changes. Suitable assumptions on agents’ preferences and interest rate distribution allow us to derive testable theoretical predictions and their implications for monetary policy. We probe these predictions using a laboratory experiment with induced inattention that closely reflects the theoretical assumptions. We find that, empirically, the laboratory data corroborates the results of the theoretical model. In particular, we show that experimental subjects respond to changes in the interest rate policy environment with: (1) a decrease in savings when the utility gain from savings does not compensate for the cognitive cost of tracking the interest rate; (2) more informed and deliberate consumption/investment choices when the monetary authority stabilizes the economy by lowering the volatility of the policy rate, implementing a version of Delphic forward guidance; (3) a slight decrease in information processing but no behavioral changes in consumption when the monetary authority signals current monetary policy stance, implementing a version of Odyssean forward guidance; (4) a sizable decrease in investment when their perception of the outlook deteriorates. These experimental and theoretical findings agree with the empirical literature on the effect of monetary policy on households’ consumption behavior in U.S. data and abroad.