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Hindsight-biased evaluation of political decision makers

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  • Schuett, Florian
  • Wagner, Alexander K.

Abstract

Hindsight bias is a cognitive deficiency that leads people to overestimate ex post how predictable an event was. In this paper we develop a political-agency model in which voters are hindsight-biased and politicians differ in ability, defined as information concerning the optimal policy. When public information is not too accurate, low-ability politicians sometimes gamble on suboptimal policies: in an attempt to mimic the high-ability type, who has superior private information, they go against public information and choose a policy whose expected payoff to society is negative. We model hindsight bias as a memory imperfection that prevents voters from accessing their ex ante information about the state of the world. We show that the bias can act as a discipline device that reduces policy gambles and can therefore be welfare enhancing. Although it is well known that restrictions on information acquisition can be beneficial for a principal, our contribution is to show that a psychological bias can have such an effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Schuett, Florian & Wagner, Alexander K., 2011. "Hindsight-biased evaluation of political decision makers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(11), pages 1621-1634.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:11:p:1621-1634
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2011.04.001
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    Cited by:

    1. David Danz & Dorothea Kübler & Lydia Mechtenberg & Julia Schmid, 2015. "On the Failure of Hindsight-Biased Principals to Delegate Optimally," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(8), pages 1938-1958, August.
    2. Bonaccorsi, Andrea & Apreda, Riccardo & Fantoni, Gualtiero, 2020. "Expert biases in technology foresight. Why they are a problem and how to mitigate them," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 151(C).
    3. Levy, Raphaël, 2014. "Soothing politics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 126-133.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Political agency; Policy gambles; Hindsight bias; Memory distortions;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design

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