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Mindful Economics: The Production, Consumption, and Value of Beliefs


  • Roland Bénabou
  • Jean Tirole


In this paper, we provide a perspective into the main ideas and findings emerging from the growing literature on motivated beliefs and reasoning. This perspective emphasizes that beliefs often fulfill important psychological and functional needs of the individual. Economically relevant examples include confidence in ones' abilities, moral self-esteem, hope and anxiety reduction, social identity, political ideology, and religious faith. People thus hold certain beliefs in part because they attach value to them, as a result of some (usually implicit) tradeoff between accuracy and desirability. In a sense, we propose to treat beliefs as regular economic goods and assets--which people consume, invest in, reap returns from, and produce, using the informational inputs they receive or have access to. Such beliefs will be resistant to many forms of evidence, with individuals displaying non-Bayesian behaviors such as not wanting to know, wishful thinking, and reality denial.

Suggested Citation

  • Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2016. "Mindful Economics: The Production, Consumption, and Value of Beliefs," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 141-164, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:30:y:2016:i:3:p:141-64 Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.30.3.141

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Shawn Cole & Esther Duflo & Leigh Linden, 2007. "Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments in India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1235-1264.
    2. Tahir Andrabi & Jishnu Das & Asim Ijaz Khwaja & Tristan Zajonc, 2011. "Do Value-Added Estimates Add Value? Accounting for Learning Dynamics," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 29-54, July.
    3. Alderman, Harold & Kim, Jooseop & Orazem, Peter F., 2003. "Design, evaluation, and sustainability of private schools for the poor: the Pakistan urban and rural fellowship school experiments," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 265-274, June.
    4. Joshua Angrist & Eric Bettinger & Erik Bloom & Elizabeth King & Michael Kremer, 2002. "Vouchers for Private Schooling in Colombia: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1535-1558, December.
    5. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Rukmini Banerji & Esther Duflo & Rachel Glennerster & Stuti Khemani, 2010. "Pitfalls of Participatory Programs: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Education in India," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 1-30, February.
    6. Harold Alderman & Peter F. Orazem & Elizabeth M. Paterno, 2001. "School Quality, School Cost, and the Public/Private School Choices of Low-Income Households in Pakistan," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(2), pages 304-326.
    7. Andrabi, Tahir & Das, Jishnu & Khwaja, Asim Ijaz, 2013. "Students today, teachers tomorrow: Identifying constraints on the provision of education," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 1-14.
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    Cited by:

    1. Charles F. Manski, 2017. "Survey Measurement of Probabilistic Macroeconomic Expectations: Progress and Promise," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2017, volume 32 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Naci H. Mocan & Han Yu, 2017. "Can Superstition Create a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy? School Outcomes of Dragon Children of China," NBER Working Papers 23709, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. repec:eee:iburev:v:27:y:2018:i:1:p:78-92 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Christine L. Exley & Judd B. Kessler, 2017. "The Better is the Enemy of the Good," Harvard Business School Working Papers 18-017, Harvard Business School.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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