NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Do Beliefs Justify Actions or Do Actions Justify Beliefs? An Experiment on Stated Beliefs, Revealed Beliefs, and Social-Image Manipulation

James Andreoni, Alison Sanchez

NBER Working Paper No. 20649
Issued in October 2014
NBER Program(s):   PE

We study whether actions are justified by beliefs, as is usually assumed, or whether beliefs are justified by actions. In our experiment, subjects participate in a trust game, after which they have an opportunity to state their beliefs about their opponent's actions. Subsequently, subjects participate in a task designed to "reveal" their true beliefs. We find that subjects who make selfish choices and show strategic sophistication falsely state their beliefs in order to project a more favorable social image. By contrast, their "revealed" beliefs were significantly more accurate, which betrayed these subjects as knowing that their selfishness was not justifiable by their opponent's behavior.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20649

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