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How people form beliefs (about the stock or housing markets for example) is an important area of study for economists. In this video, FLORIAN ZIMMERMANN explores the role that memory plays in belief formation. More specifically, Zimmermann studies associative recall, the way in which the recall of memory trace is triggered by cues that are mentally associated with that trace. Zimmermann’s experiment involves participants being provided with information (positive and negative) about hypothetical companies. After a time lapse, they are asked to assess the values of these companies. The research shows that respondents consistently overreact to the last piece of information that they receive. Additionally, the work presents a new experimental paradigm for studying the role that associative recall and other memory imperfections play in the process of belief formation.


Florian Zimmermann is a Professor of Economics at the Institute on Behavior and Inequality and at the University of Bonn. He has previously worked at the University of Zurich and at Harvard University. Zimmermann’s research centers on behavioral and experimental economics. An Associate Editor at the Quarterly Journal of Economics and the Journal of the European Economic Association, Zimmermann’s current work on memory and belief formation is supported by an ERC Sterting Grant (2020-2025).


University of Bonn (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn)

Bonn is one of the large universities in Germany, with around 36,000 students, 550 professors, 6,500 other staff staff. It offers a wide disciplinary spectrum comprising some 200 different degree programmes, from Agricultural Science to Tibetan Studies. This diversity is what characterizes Bonn as a full-range university with a strong international orientation. In many international university rankings Bonn is placed among the 100 best universities in the world.Its academic and research profile features internationally renowned specializations in the fields of Mathematics, Physics/Astronomy, Economics, Chemistry, Pharma Research, Biosciences, Genetic Medicine, Neurosciences and Philosophy/Ethics. Other disciplines, such as Geography and Law, are of outstanding importance within the German research scene. The Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn is rooted in a long tradition going back almost 200 years. It was founded in 1818 by Friedrich-Wilhelm III, the Prussian king whose name it bears. Imbued with the spirit of Wilhelm von Humboldt, the university quickly joined the circle of Germany's most distinguished universities and became a major pole of attraction for leading scholars as well as students.The list of famous professors ranges from the astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Argelander (1799-1875), through the chemist August Kekulé von Stradonitz (1829–1896) and political economist Josef Schumpeter (1883–1950) to the philologist Ernst Robert Curtius (1886–1956) and the theologists Karl Barth (1886–1968) and Joseph Ratzinger (born 1927), now Pope Benedict XVI. Bonn's best-known students include Heinrich Heine, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Konrad Adenauer. The university is proud of a long list of award-winning scientists and scholars, with about twenty Leibniz Prize winners and around thirty ERC grantees. In the last three decades two professors have received the Nobel Prize: Wolfgang Paul (for Physics, 1989) and Reinhard Selten (for Economics, 1994). (Source: University of Bonn)
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Original publication

Associative Memory and Belief Formation

Enke Benjamin, Schwerter Frederik and Zimmermann Florian
Published in 2020