Did prices really go up when the Euro arrived? The public mind, or at least the dominant media discourse, says they did. The inflation indices say they didn’t, or at least the prices that did go up were outweighed by the ones that went down. This paradox may have been solved. Erich Kirchler, of Vienna University’s Institute for Economic Psychology, tells Der Standard how.
Kirchler formed three representative groups of volunteers, and showed them prices in Schillings, then in euros. One group’s price was exaggerated by 15%, one reduced by 15%, and a control group saw correctly converted prices. All three groups were convinced the prices had risen…yes, including the second group. When he repeated the experiment with wages, rather than prices, the guinea pigs were convinced the opposite was the case.
He theorises that two well-known cognitive biases are at work – irrational perception of risk (the difference between accepting â‚¬10 now, or a 90% chance of â‚¬90 later) and the salience heuristic (unrepresentative but extreme events are over-perceived).
I was in Austria for the introduction of cash Euros, and I recall not so much that prices went up, as that the standard sums of money one withdraws from ATMs (20, 50, 100 etc) were suddenly considerably more and hence it was easy to spend more. Everyone was convinced that prices went up, though. And the German-speaking press had been hammering the word “Teuro” (roughly: “dearo”) into the meme-pool for months before the switch. (Especially, of course, Bild Zeitung and the execrable Krone..)