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The False Consensus Effect: Deconstruction and Reconstruction of an Anomaly

  • Dirk Engelmann
  • Martin Strobel

We present a striking example of the deconstruction and reconstruction of an anomaly. In line with previous experiments we show in a one-shot setting that the allegedly robust false consensus effect disappears if representative information is readily available. But the effect reappears if a small cognitive effort is required to retrieve the information. Most subjects apparently ignore valuable information if it is not handed to them on a silver platter. We conclude that the relevance of the false consensus effect depends on the difficulty of the information retrieval and that the underlying mechanism is an information processing defficiency rather than egocentricity. Moreover, we discuss the potential relevance of our findings for other well-known effects like the winner’s curse and overconfidence.

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Paper provided by The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague in its series CERGE-EI Working Papers with number wp233.

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Date of creation: Sep 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cer:papers:wp233
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  1. Charness, Gary & Grosskopf, Brit, 2001. "Relative payoffs and happiness: an experimental study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 301-328, July.
  2. van der Heijden, E.C.M. & Nelissen, J.H.M. & Potters, J.J.M., 2004. "Opinions on Tax Deductions and the Consensus Effect in a Survey-Experiment," Discussion Paper 2004-23, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  3. Selten, Reinhard & Ockenfels, Axel, 1998. "An experimental solidarity game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 517-539, March.
  4. Engelmann, Dirk & Strobel, Martin, 1999. "The false consensus effect disappears if representative information and monetary incentives are given," SFB 373 Discussion Papers 1999,66, Humboldt University of Berlin, Interdisciplinary Research Project 373: Quantification and Simulation of Economic Processes.
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