The Economics of Faith: Using an Apocalyptic Prophecy to Elicit Religious Beliefs in the Field

40 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2012

See all articles by Ned Augenblick

Ned Augenblick

University of California, Berkeley - Economic Analysis & Policy Group

Jesse M. Cunha

Naval Postgraduate School

Ernesto Dal Bo

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business - Business and Public Policy

Justin M. Rao

Microsoft Research; Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research - Redmond

Date Written: December 2012

Abstract

We model religious faith as a "demand for beliefs," following the logic of the Pascalian wager. We then demonstrate how an experimental intervention can exploit standard elicitation techniques to measure religious belief by varying prizes associated with making choices contrary to one's belief in a, crucially, falsifiable religious proposition. We implemented this approach with a group that expected the "End of the World" to happen on May 21, 2011 by offering prizes payable before and after May 21st. The results suggest the existence of a demand for extreme, sincere beliefs that was unresponsive to experimental manipulations in price.

Suggested Citation

Augenblick, Ned and Cunha, Jesse M. and Dal Bo, Ernesto and Rao, Justin M., The Economics of Faith: Using an Apocalyptic Prophecy to Elicit Religious Beliefs in the Field (December 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18641, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2192814

Ned Augenblick (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Economic Analysis & Policy Group ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Jesse M. Cunha

Naval Postgraduate School ( email )

555 Dyer Road
Monterey, CA 93943
United States

Ernesto Dal Bo

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business - Business and Public Policy ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Justin M. Rao

Microsoft Research ( email )

641 Avenue of Americas
7th Floor
New York, NY 11249
United States

Microsoft Corporation - Microsoft Research - Redmond ( email )

Building 99
Redmond, WA
United States

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