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Whitney Newey Publications

Publish Date
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The drift-diffusion model (DDM) is a model of sequential sampling with diffusion signals, where the decision maker accumulates evidence until the process hits either an upper or lower stopping boundary and then stops and chooses the alternative that corresponds to that boundary. In perceptual tasks, the drift of the process is related to which choice is objectively correct, whereas in consumption tasks, the drift is related to the relative appeal of the alternatives. The simplest version of the DDM assumes that the stopping boundaries are constant over time. More recently, a number of papers have used nonconstant boundaries to better fit the data. This paper provides a statistical test for DDMs with general, nonconstant boundaries. As a by-product, we show that the drift and the boundary are uniquely identified. We use our condition to nonparametrically estimate the drift and the boundary and construct a test statistic based on finite samples.


In parametric models a sufficient condition for local identification is that the vector of moment conditions is differentiable at the true parameter with full rank derivative matrix. We show that additional conditions are often needed in nonlinear, nonparametric models to avoid nonlinearities overwhelming linear effects. We give restrictions on a neighborhood of the true value that are sufficient for local identification. We apply these results to obtain new, primitive identification conditions in several important models, including nonseparable quantile instrumental variable (IV) models, single-index IV models, and semiparametric consumption-based asset pricing models.