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Diverging Opinions


  • James Andreoni
  • Tymofiy Mylovanov


People often see the same evidence but draw opposite conclusions, becoming polarized over time. More surprisingly, disagreements persist even when they are commonly known. We derive a model and present an experiment showing that opinions can diverge when one-dimensional opinions are formed from two-dimensional information. When subjects are given sufficient information to reach agreement, however, disagreement persists. Subjects discount information when it is filtered through the actions of others, but not when it is presented directly, indicating that common knowledge of disagreement may be the result of excessive skepticism about the decision-making skills of others. (JEL C92, D82, D83)

Suggested Citation

  • James Andreoni & Tymofiy Mylovanov, 2012. "Diverging Opinions," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 209-232, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:4:y:2012:i:1:p:209-32 Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.4.1.209

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Börgers, Tilman & Hernando-Veciana, Angel & Krähmer, Daniel, 2013. "When are signals complements or substitutes?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 148(1), pages 165-195.
    2. David Hirshleifer, 2001. "Investor Psychology and Asset Pricing," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(4), pages 1533-1597, August.
    3. Geanakoplos, John D. & Polemarchakis, Heraklis M., 1982. "We can't disagree forever," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 192-200, October.
    4. Alexander Zimper & Alexander Ludwig, 2007. "Attitude polarization," MEA discussion paper series 07155, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    5. Kondor, Péter, 2011. "The more we know on the fundamental, the less we agree on the price," CEPR Discussion Papers 8455, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Chakravarthi Narasimhan & Chuan He & Eric Anderson & Lyle Brenner & Preyas Desai & Dmitri Kuksov & Paul Messinger & Sridhar Moorthy & Joseph Nunes & Yuval Rottenstreich & Richard Staelin & George Wu &, 2005. "Incorporating Behavioral Anomalies in Strategic Models," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 361-373, December.
    7. David Eil & Justin M. Rao, 2011. "The Good News-Bad News Effect: Asymmetric Processing of Objective Information about Yourself," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 114-138, May.
    8. Luís Santos-Pinto & Joel Sobel, 2005. "A Model of Positive Self-Image in Subjective Assessments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1386-1402, December.
    9. Nielsen, Lars Tyge, et al, 1990. "Common Knowledge of an Aggregate of Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(5), pages 1235-1239, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Börgers, Tilman & Hernando-Veciana, Angel & Krähmer, Daniel, 2013. "When are signals complements or substitutes?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 148(1), pages 165-195.
    2. Isaac Loh & Gregory Phelan, 2016. "Dimensionality and Disagreement: Asymptotic Belief Divergence in Response to Common Information," Department of Economics Working Papers 2016-18, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised Apr 2017.
    3. Benoît, Jean-Pierre & Dubra, Juan, 2014. "A Theory of Rational Attitude Polarization," MPRA Paper 60129, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Ceren Baysan, 2017. "Can More Information Lead to More Voter Polarization? Experimental Evidence from Turkey," 2017 Papers pba1551, Job Market Papers.
    5. Thakor, Anjan V., 2015. "Strategic information disclosure when there is fundamental disagreement," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 131-153.
    6. Melguizo, Isabel, 2017. "Homophily and the Persistence of Disagreement," MPRA Paper 77367, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness


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