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Optimal Expectations

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus K. Brunnermeier & Jonathan A. Parker, 2005. "Optimal Expectations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1092-1118, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:95:y:2005:i:4:p:1092-1118
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/0002828054825493
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-319, June.
    3. Christian Gollier, 2005. "Optimal Illusions and Decisions under Risk," CESifo Working Paper Series 1382, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory and Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79.
    5. Joseph Golec & Maurry Tamarkin, 1998. "Bettors Love Skewness, Not Risk, at the Horse Track," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(1), pages 205-225, February.
    6. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
    7. Robert B. Barsky & F. Thomas Juster & Miles S. Kimball & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-579.
    8. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2004. "The Social Discount Rate," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1257-1268, December.
    9. Gollier, Christian, 2005. "Optimal Illusions and Decisions under Risk," IDEI Working Papers 340, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
    10. 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.
    11. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Self-Confidence and Personal Motivation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 871-915.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates

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