Departmental Seminar - Feb 24th

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Nicolas Schutz

Nicolas SCHUTZ is Professor of Economics at the University of Mannheim. He is also CEPR Research Fellow, a Junior Member of the Mannheim Center for Competition and Innovation (MaCCI) and a member of the Industrial Economics Committee of the German Economic Association.

His research interests include Industrial Organisation, International Trade and Applied Microeconomic Theory.

Nicolas SCHUTZ will present a paper, joint with Volker NOCKE, at the next Departmental Seminar on the theme:

An Aggregative Games Approach to Merger Analysis in Multiproduct-Firm Oligopoly (PDF 450,52 KB)

More about Nicolas SCHUTZ and his research

The next Departmental Seminar will host Chris BLATTMAN on March 2nd.

Date: Mon, 2020/02/24 - 14:45 - 16:15
Location: Department of Economics, 28 rue des Saints Pères/ Paris - ROOM H 405

When the Truth is Inconvenient or “Motivated” Reading of Information

Jeanne Hagenbach presents her ERC Project MOREV
  • Girl hiding her ears and eyes with her hands - Drawing credit: Jeanne HagenbachGirl hiding her ears and eyes with her hands - Drawing credit: Jeanne Hagenbach

Jeanne Hagenbach

Professor and CNRS researcher at the Department, Jeanne HAGENBACH's research interests are in the field of microeconomics and her work relies in particular on game theory and experimental economics. 

In the framework of a very selective competition, Jeanne HAGENBACH was awarded funding from the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant) to conduct her research project "Motivated Reading of Evidence". Presentation.

In most economic and social contexts, agents base their decisions (to purchase, to invest, to accept a job offer, etc.) on available information. This information can take various forms: it can be verifiable or not, it can provide hard evidence of a fact or simply be a friend’s advice or recommendation. But whatever form information takes, one assumption guides its use in most economic models: agents, who initially lack information, seek to obtain the most accurate depiction of the context in which they are evolving. In other words, agents’ main objective is to discover the true “state of the world” (a microeconomics concept that summarizes the uncertainty of the environment). For example, it is assumed that consumers wish to learn about the nutritional content of their food in order to adapt their diet, that workers want to better understand their work environment as well as the risks they may be taking in order to adapt their efforts, or that applicants like to evaluate precisely their chances of getting a job or a promotion in order to improve their application.

Another goal than learning the truth

In a new research project, Jeanne Hagenbach proposes to challenge this assumption: what if economic agents actually do not always want to know the truth about their environment? In other words, the idea is to consider that agents can form “motivated beliefs”, that is, beliefs that serve a personal objective which is potentially more complex than the one of holding accurate beliefs. In this way, an agent may prefer not to know how slaughterhouses work and continue to consume meat, may want to go on smoking by willfully ignoring the health damage of this habit, or prefer wrongly believing that he/she just got a good deal at the supermarket.

The complex role of beliefs

Research in psychology has shown for long time that beliefs can affect an agent’s well-being directly and not only because they allow him/her to make better choices. For instance, the psychologist Melvin Lerner (1) argues that individuals give an intrinsic value to the belief that the world is a fair place, that people get what they deserve. The field of psychology has also established that, independently of his actions, an agent can suffer merely due to the fact that, once updated with new information, his beliefs contradict those he has held up until now (2).

Elaborate strategies to reach particular beliefs

Like behavioural economics in general, the topic of motivated beliefs has been receiving increasing interest in economics for the past few years now (3). This interest was initially motivated by the observation that individuals always view themselves as better than the average population (in better health, with a smaller chance to divorce, as a more careful driver etc.), a belief which is necessarily wrong. Jean Tirole, who received the Nobel prize in economics in 2014, and Roland Benabou, professor at Princeton University, have gone so far as to propose a model in which an agent uses elaborate strategies to reach and maintain pleasant beliefs about himself (his intelligence, his altruism etc.). In this model, several versions (or “selves”) of the same individual interact strategically: one “self” manipulates another one (4)! Moreover, recent lab experiments have demonstrated that agents memorize positive feedback about themselves better than negative, most probably in order to preserve a motivating or reassuring self-image (5). In this type of experiment, voluntary human subjects are usually assigned randomly to various experimental treatments. Researchers then measure how the treatments affect, for example, beliefs that agents form about their own IQ level. As is commonly done in experimental economics, subjects are paid as a function of the accuracy of their stated beliefs, so as to give them real incentives to reveal their true beliefs.

Holding beliefs about oneself but also about the world

In all works previously mentioned, motivated beliefs are about personal characteristics of the individual: his intelligence, his generosity, his health status. In her project, Jeanne Hagenbach wishes to study how economic agents form beliefs about other individuals and about their economic environment more generally. Do we perceive others in the same way when we are about to compete against them or about to work with them? Which dimensions of a person’s identity do we have in mind in different strategic settings? Which avoidance strategies do consumers use not to learn that some products are polluting the planet? Do they avoid reading the labels, avoid reasoning about these labels or deliberately forget what they learnt? To try to answer these questions, Jeanne Hagenbach uses experimental methods as well as theoretical models. In terms of experiments, we can, for instance, measure how subjects perceive another subject’s CV in different strategic settings that are announced prior to the reading of the CV. Regarding the development of theoretical models, an objective is to show that bounds on rationality may come from purposeful choices from an agent who prefers not to know the whole truth. In particular, it may be that an agent is cognitively able to make all inferences required to learn the truth in some contexts, but that this agent refuses to make these inferences if that truth is disturbing.

The question of information avoidance

According to “classical” economic theory, a decision-maker should never avoid information because it helps him make better choices. It is therefore particularly surprising that in forming motivated beliefs, individuals sometimes avoid available information (6). It follows that public policies which rely on the mandatory disclosure of information – on the risks of some products for health or for the environment, on the methods of data protection etc. – may not be as efficient as one may think. When agents do not want to know, how should they be informed ? And should we be informing them?

Read more about the MOREV Project

More about Jeanne HAGENBACH and her research

Consult the ERC's press release

  1.  ↑ Melvin Lerner, The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion, Plenum Press, 1980
  2. ↑ Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Row, Peterson & Company, 1957
  3. ↑ Roland Bénabou, “The economics of motivated beliefs”, Revue d’économie politique, 2015
  4. ↑ Roland Bénabou, Jean Tirole – “Self-confidence and personal motivation”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2002
  5. ↑ Florian Zimmermann, “The Dynamics of Motivated Beliefs”, American Economic Review, 2019
  6. ↑ Russel Golman, David Hagmann, and Georges Loewenstein, “Information Avoidance”, Journal of Economic Literature, 2017


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Philippe MARTIN appointed as new CEPR Vice President

  • Philippe MartinPhilippe Martin

CEPR logoThe Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) announced this week the appointment of Philippe MARTIN to its leadership team as Vice President.

The Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) was founded in 1983 to enhance the quality of economic policy-making within Europe and beyond, by fostering high quality, policy-relevant economic research, and disseminating it widely to decision-makers in the public and private sectors. Today, CEPR’s network of Research Fellows and Affiliates includes over 1,300 of the top economists conducting research on issues affecting the European economy.

Based in London, the CEPR is actively seeking to provide regional platforms on the continent for CEPR Researchers and to deepen its ties in local academic and policy communities.

Philippe MARTIN is Professor of Economics and former Chair of the Department, as well as Chair of the Council of Economic Analysis of the French Prime Minister and the Minister of Economy and Finance since 2018. He has been a CEPR Fellow since 1995 in the international macroeconomics and finance programme and the international trade and regional economics programme since 1997.

His research covers macroeconomics and international finance, international trade and economic geography. His current research is on the euro crisis and on the rise of protectionism and he is active in current European policy debates. His work has been published in international scientific journals such as the American Economic Review, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economic Studies, Journal of International Economics, Journal of Public Economics, American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, Regional Science and Urban Economics. He has co-written several books including Economic Geography and Public Policy (2003, Princeton University Press) and The Economics of Clusters? Lessons fron the French Experience (2010, Oxford University Press).


Read the CEPR’s announcement
More about Philippe MARTIN and his research

Empirical IO Seminar - Feb 11th

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Cristina Gualdani

Cristina GUALDANI is Assistant Professor at the Toulouse School of Economics (TSE). Prior to joining TSE, and while undertaking her doctoral studies at UCL, she was an Economist at the Bank of Italy in the Financial Stability Directorate.

Her research interests focus primarily on econometrics, applied microeconomics, network economics.

Cristina GUALDANI will present a paper at the inaugural session of the Empirical IO Seminar on the theme:

Identification and Inference in Discrete Choice Models with Imperfect Information (paper to follow)

More about Cristina GUALDINI and her research

The next Empirical IO Seminar will host Nathan Miller (Georgetown) on February 25th.

Date: Tue, 2020/02/11 - 14:45 - 16:15
Location: Department of Economics, 28 rue des Saints Pères - ROOM H 402

Departmental Seminar - Feb 10th

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Joël van der WEELE

Joël van der WEELE is an Associate Professor of Economics at the Center for Research in Experimental Economics and political Decision making (CREED) at the University of Amsterdam, and a Fellow at the Tinbergen Institute and the Amsterdam Brain and Cognition center.

His research is on diverse issues at the intersection of economics and psychology, using the tools of experimental economics and game theory. Topics include motivated cognition in economic decisions, the interaction of laws and social norms and the measurement of beliefs. In 2017, Joël van der WEELE was awarded an important VIDI grant by the Dutch Science Foundation for his research project on "Selective Attention and Economic Decisions".

Joël van der WEELE will present a paper, joint with Peter SCHWARDMANN and Egon TRIPODI, at the next Departmental Seminar on the theme:

Self-Persuasion: Evidence from Field Experiments at Two International Debating Competitions (read paper)

More about Joël van der WEELE and his research

The next Departmental Seminar will host Nicolas SCHUTZ on February 24th.

Date: Mon, 2020/02/10 - 14:45 - 16:15
Location: Department of Economics, 28 rue des Saints Pères - ROOM H 405

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