Fishing for good news: Motivated Information Acquisition

Carl Heese, Si Chen

The literature on motivated reasoning argues that people skew their beliefs to feel moral when acting selfishly. Leveraging techniques from the Bayesian persuasion literature, we study the information acquisition of decision-makers with a motive to form positive moral self-views and a motive to act selfishly. Theoretically and experimentally, we find that a motive to act selfishly makes individuals dynamically `fish for good news’: they are more likely to continue (stop) acquiring information, having so far received mostly information suggesting that acting selfishly is harmful (harmless) to others. We also find that fishing for good news may improve social welfare and that more intelligent individuals have a higher tendency to fish for good news.

Department of Economics
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Austrian Fields of Science 2012
502021 Microeconomics
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