Misperceptions about Others
People’s perceptions about others play an important role in shaping their own attitudes and behaviors, as well as social norms more broadly. This review presents a meta-analysis of the recent empirical literature that examines perceptions about others in the field. We document a number of stylized facts. Misperceptions about others are widespread, asymmetric, much larger when about out-group members, and positively associated with one’s own attitudes. Experimental treatments to re-calibrate misperceptions generally work as intended; they sometimes lead to meaningful changes in behaviors, though this often occurs only immediately after the treatments. We discuss different conceptual frameworks that could explain the origin, persistence, and rigidity of misperceptions about others. We point to several directions for future research.
Draft in preparation for the Annual Review of Economics. When citing this paper, please use the following: “Bursztyn L, Yang DY. 2021. Misperceptions about Others. Annu. Rev. Econ. 14: Submitted. DOI:10.1146/annurev-economics-051520-023322” Bursztyn: University of Chicago and NBER. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Yang: Harvard University and NBER. Email: email@example.com. We thank Vanessa Sticher and Alison Zhao for outstanding research assistance. We thank many colleagues for generously sharing their data and replication files, and for patiently answering numerous questions from us — the meta-analyses would not be possible without ttheir support. Finally, we thank Pedro Bordalo, Davide Cantoni, Ingar Haaland, Ricardo Perez-Truglia, Aakaash Rao, Gautam Rao, Chris Roth, Andrei Shleifer, Marco Tabellini, and Noam Yuchtman for helpful comments and suggestions. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.