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Optimal Expectations

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  • Markus K. Brunnermeier
  • Jonathan A. Parker

Abstract

Forward-looking agents care about expected future utility flows, and hence have higher current felicity if they are optimistic. This paper studies utility-based biases in beliefs by supposing that beliefs maximize average felicity, optimally balancing this benefit of optimism against the costs of worse decision making. A small optimistic bias in beliefs typically leads to first-order gains in anticipatory utility and only second-order costs in realized outcomes. In a portfolio choice example, investors overestimate their return and exhibit a preference for skewness; in general equilibrium, investors' prior beliefs are endogenously heterogeneous. In a consumption-saving example, consumers are both overconfident and overoptimistic.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 95 (2005)
Issue (Month): 4 (September)
Pages: 1092-1118

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:95:y:2005:i:4:p:1092-1118

Note: DOI: 10.1257/0002828054825493
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  1. Barsky, Robert B, et al, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-79, May.
  2. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory And Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79, February.
  3. Leeat Yariv, 2002. "I'll See It When I Believe It - A Simple Model of Cognitive Consistency," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1352, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  4. Roland BĂ©nabou & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Self-Confidence And Personal Motivation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 871-915, August.
  5. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-19, June.
  6. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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