Do Beliefs Justify Actions or Do Actions Justify Beliefs? An Experiment on Stated Beliefs, Revealed Beliefs, and Social-Image Manipulation
NBER Working Paper No. 20649
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.
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20649
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