Fear of the Unknown: Familiarity and Economic Decisions
Henry Cao, Bing Han, David Hirshleifer, and Harold Zhang
Review of Finance, January 2011
Evidence indicates that people fear change and the unknown. We offer a model of familiarity bias in which individuals focus on adverse scenarios in evaluating defections from the status quo. The model explains the endowment effect, portfolio underdiversification, home and local biases. Equilibrium stock prices reflect an unfamiliarity premium. In an international setting, our model implies that the absolute pricing error of the standard CAPM is positively correlated with the amount of home bias. It also predicts that a modified CAPM holds wherein the market portfolio is replaced with a portfolio of the stock holdings of investors not subject to familiarity bias.