Month: February 2020

Saturday assorted links

The dynamics of motivated beliefs

A key question in the literature on motivated reasoning and self-deception is how motivated beliefs are sustained in the presence of feedback. In this paper, we explore dynamic motivated belief patterns after feedback. We establish that positive feedback has a persistent effect on beliefs. Negative feedback, instead, influences beliefs in the short run, but this effect fades over time. We investigate the mechanisms of this dynamic pattern, and provide evidence for an asymmetry in the recall of feedback. Finally, we establish that, in line with theoretical accounts, incentives for belief accuracy mitigate the role of motivated reasoning.

That is from the new AER by Florian Zimmerman.  And from the paper proper:

We find that negative feedback is indeed recalled with significantly lower accuracy, compared to positive feedback, which suggests that the dynamic belief pattern we have identified is indeed driven by the selective recall of information. Next, we make use of additional outcome variables and a placebo condition to delve into how selective recall operates. In a nutshell, the following patterns emerge. Our results suggest that participants are able to suppress the recall of unwanted memories. Furthermore, participants appear to suppress the recall of not only negative feedback but also the IQ test more broadly. Our results lend direct support to key modeling assumptions in Bénabou and Tirole (2002, 2004). From a policy perspective, our findings suggest that policy interventions aimed at correcting self-servingly biased misperceptions via information or feedback are unlikely to be effective in the long run due to people’s ability to forget or suppress information that threatens their desired views.

The paper also shows that incentives matter and can improve the problem.  For instance, if you tell people that they will have to recall the information at some point in the future, and will receive a monetary reward for accuracy, there is considerably less selective forgetting.

The smart phone as pacifier

In light of consumers’ growing dependence on their smartphones, this article investigates the nature of the relationship that consumers form with their smartphone and its underlying mechanisms. We propose that in addition to obvious functional benefits, consumers in fact derive emotional benefits from their smartphone, in particular, feelings of psychological comfort and, if needed, actual stress relief. In other words, in a sense, smartphones are not unlike “adult pacifiers.” This psychological comfort arises from a unique combination of properties that turn smartphones into a reassuring presence for their owners: the portability of the device, its personal nature, the subjective sense of privacy experienced while on the device, and the haptic gratification it affords. Results from one large-scale field study and three laboratory experiments support the proposed underlying mechanisms and document downstream consequences of the psychological comfort that smartphones provide. The findings show, for example, that (a) in moments of stress, consumers exhibit a greater tendency to seek out their smartphone (study 2); and (b) engaging with one’s smartphone provides greater stress relief than engaging in the same activity with a comparable device such as one’s laptop (study 3) or a similar smartphone belonging to someone else (study 4).

That is by Shiri Melumad and Michel Tuan Pham, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.