Path Dependency in Physician Decisions

Lawrence JIN, Rui TANG, Han YE*, Junjian YI, Songfa ZHONG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


We examine path dependency in physician decisions in an emergency department setting, and find that physicians’ treatment decisions for the current and previous patients are positively correlated. We show that the positive autocorrelation is higher when the current patient is of greater medical uncertainty or more similar to the previous patient in terms of observed characteristics and when the physician is less experienced or more fatigued. We then show that these patterns are highly consistent with the memory and attention model, whereby the physician’s current decision is anchored to her previous decision. The results from both reduced-form analyses and structural estimations provide further support for the importance of memory and attention in physician decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberrdad096
JournalThe Review of Economic Studies
Early online date29 Sept 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Sept 2023


  • physician decisions
  • path dependency
  • anchoring and adjustment
  • memory and attention


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