October 2022

IZA DP No. 15682: Motivated Belief Updating and Rationalization of Information

We study belief updating about relative performance in an ego-relevant task. Manipulating the perceived ego-relevance of the task, we show that subjects update their beliefs optimistically because they derive direct utility flows from holding positive beliefs. This finding provides a behavioral explanation why and how overconfidence can evolve in the presence of objective information. Moreover, we document that subjects, who received more bad signals, downplay the ego-relevance of the task. Taken together, these findings suggest that subjects use two alternative strategies to protect their ego when presented with objective information.