Skip to main content

Attention Economics in Information Rich Environments

Researcher: Alessandro Acquisti

Research Area: Privacy Protection

Cross Cutting Thrusts: Business Risk Analysis and Economic Implications | Usable Privacy and Security


Since Nobel prize winner Herbert Simon's farsighted comment in 1971, information abundance and overload have made attention an increasingly scarce resource (Simon 1971). Technologies such as the World Wide Web, corporate networks, and mobile devices "continually wash tsunamis of information onto our desktops" (Davenport and Beck 2000). As employees, consumers, and private individuals, we face escalating difficulties in allocating our attention efficiently, so that the utility from our every day transactions is maximized. In many circumstances - such as e-mail spam - individuals are becoming frustrated to a point where some start even to avoid services. In absence of formal economic analysis and clear public policy advice to be found in the literature, we study the economic and welfare implications of attention allocation and consumption, using a combination of theory and experimental validation. For instance, in one study, we focus on advertising interruptions: we investigate experimentally customers' reactions on being interrupted by pop-up ads while engaged in a primary activity, and the effects of those interruptions on consumers' attitudes towards the brand and willingness to pay for a product associated with the interrupting brand.