A Practical Guide to Updating Beliefs from Contradictory Evidence

26 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2019 Last revised: 11 Aug 2020

See all articles by Evan Sadler

Evan Sadler

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics

Date Written: January 14, 2020

Abstract

We often make high stakes choices based on complex information that we have no way to verify. Careful Bayesian reasoning---assessing every reason why a claim could be false or misleading---is not feasible, so we necessarily act on faith: we trust certain sources and treat claims as if they were direct observations of payoff relevant events. This creates a challenge when trusted sources conflict: Practically speaking, is there a principled way to update beliefs in response to contradictory claims? I propose a model of belief formation along with several updating axioms. An impossibility theorem shows there is no obvious best answer, while a representation theorem delineates the boundary of what is possible.

Keywords: Falsehoods, bounded rationality, contradictory claims, small worlds

JEL Classification: D81

Suggested Citation

Sadler, Evan, A Practical Guide to Updating Beliefs from Contradictory Evidence (January 14, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3394542 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3394542

Evan Sadler (Contact Author)

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics ( email )

420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

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