Erez Yoeli, MIT’s Sloan School of Management – Københavns Universitet

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Erez Yoeli, MIT’s Sloan School of Management

"A game theoretic explanation for spin and motivated reasoning"

Abstract

 "Spin" is ubiquitous in private, professional, and political life. Why does spin persist even though others anticipate it and adjust accordingly? What features is spin liable to have? Under what conditions are people likely to spin? Building on game theory insights, we present three stylized models, in which a sender, whose payoffs are increasing in receiver's beliefs, privately chooses what evidence to convey, how extensively to search, and which tests to run. In equilibrium, the sender only searches for and reveals evidence that increases receiver's posteriors (`supportive evidence') and runs `confirmatory' tests that maximize the likelihood of supportive evidence, regardless of the truth.  Presuming senders internalize the highest beliefs consistent with presented evidence, senders also exhibit well-documented but unexplained features of motivated reasoning.

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