On Self-Serving Strategic Beliefs

University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 315

78 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2019

See all articles by Nadja R. Ging-Jehli

Nadja R. Ging-Jehli

Ohio State University (OSU)

Florian Schneider

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Roberto A. Weber

University of Zurich - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 23, 2019

Abstract

We experimentally study settings where an individual may have an incentive to adopt negative beliefs about another’s intentions in order to justify egoistic behavior. Our first study uses a game in which a player can take money from an opponent in order to prevent the opponent from subsequently causing harm. We hypothesize that players will justify taking by engaging in “strategic cynicism,” convincing themselves of the opponent’s ill intentions. We elicit incentivized beliefs both from players with such an incentive and from neutral third parties with no incentive to bias their beliefs. We find no difference between the two sets of beliefs, suggesting that people do not negatively bias their beliefs about a strategic opponent even when they have an incentive to do so. This result contrasts with Di Tella, et al. (2015), who argue that they provide evidence of strategic cynicism. We reconcile the discrepancy by using Di Tella, et al.’s, data, a simple model of strategic belief manipulation and a novel experiment in which we replicate Di Tella, et al.’s, experiment and also elicit the beliefs of neutral third parties. Across three experimental datasets, the results provide no evidence of negatively biased beliefs about others’ intentions. However, Di Tella, et al.’s, results and our novel data indicate that those with a greater incentive to view others’ intentions negatively exhibit relatively less positive beliefs than those without such incentives.

Keywords: motivated beliefs, strategic cynicism, bias, experiment

JEL Classification: C72, D83, C92

Suggested Citation

Ging-Jehli, Nadja R. and Schneider, Florian and Weber, Roberto A., On Self-Serving Strategic Beliefs (January 23, 2019). University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 315. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3324160 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3324160

Nadja R. Ging-Jehli (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU)

Blankenship Hall-2010
901 Woody Hayes Drive
Columbus, OH OH 43210
United States

Florian Schneider

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zürich
Switzerland

Roberto A. Weber

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Zuerich, 8006
Switzerland

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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