Self-Persuasion Does Not Imply Self-Deception

19 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2024

See all articles by Yunhao Zhang

Yunhao Zhang

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Date Written: March 10, 2024

Abstract

The prevailing assumption is that the self-persuasion effect – whereby individuals who are incentivized to persuade others adjust their own beliefs to align with their persuasion goals – primarily stems from self-deception (in order to more effectively persuade others). Our paper proposes an alternative explanation: that self-persuasion arises not from self-deception, but rather through simply being preferentially exposed to goal-aligned arguments. Here, we provide empirical evidence supporting our alternative account using an experiment in which participants were assigned to either an incentivized persuasion task or an incentivized summary task. We pretested the task instructions such that while both tasks involved generating arguments pertaining to one side of a randomly assigned social issue, only the persuasion task involved the motivation to persuade others. Consistent with the existing state of the field, incentivized predictions by N=62 experts predicted more self-persuasion in the persuasion condition relative to the summary condition. In contrast, however, a pre-registered experiment (N=1609) found an equal level of self-persuasion in both conditions. This indicates that simply generating goal-aligned arguments, rather than the motive to persuade, drives self-persuasion. These findings challenge the conventional wisdom, suggesting that self-deception may not be the primary mechanism behind self-persuasion.

Keywords: Self-deception, Self-persuasion, Expert Forecast

Suggested Citation

Zhang, Yunhao and Rand, David G., Self-Persuasion Does Not Imply Self-Deception (March 10, 2024). MIT Sloan Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4786641 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4786641

Yunhao Zhang (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://https://mitsloan.mit.edu/phd/students/yunhao-zhang

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

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David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.daverand.org

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