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Groupthink: Collective Delusions in Organizations and Markets

  • Benabou, Roland

    ()

    (Princeton University)

This paper investigates collective denial and willful blindness in groups, organizations and markets. Agents with anticipatory preferences, linked through an interaction structure, choose how to interpret and recall public signals about future prospects. Wishful thinking (denial of bad news) is shown to be contagious when it is harmful to others, and self-limiting when it is beneficial. Similarly, with Kreps-Porteus preferences, willful blindness (information avoidance) spreads when it increases the risks borne by others. This general mechanism can generate multiple social cognitions of reality, and in hierarchies it implies that realism and delusion will trickle down from the leaders. The welfare analysis differentiates group morale from groupthink and identifies a fundamental tension in organizations' attitudes toward dissent. Contagious exuberance can also seize asset markets, generating investment frenzies and crashes.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7322.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Review of Economic Studies, 2013, 80 (2), 429-462
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7322
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  1. Markus K. Brunnermeier & Christian Gollier & Jonathan A. Parker, 2007. "Optimal Beliefs, Asset Prices, and the Preference for Skewed Returns," NBER Working Papers 12940, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Willpower and Personal Rules," CEPR Discussion Papers 3143, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Olivier Vigneron, & Xavier Gabaix & Arvind Krishnamurthy, 2004. "Limits of Arbitrage: Theory and Evidence from the Mortgage-Backed Securities Market," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 430, Econometric Society.
  8. Caplin, A. & Leahy, J., 1992. "Business as Usual, Market Crashes and Wisdom After the Fact," Discussion Papers 1992_18, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
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  10. Eric Van den Steen, 2010. "On the origin of shared beliefs (and corporate culture)," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 41(4), pages 617-648.
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  12. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520, 07.
  13. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973, April.
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  17. Loewenstein, George, 1987. "Anticipation and the Valuation of Delayed Consumption," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(387), pages 666-84, September.
  18. Andrea Prat, 2005. "The Wrong Kind of Transparency," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 862-877, June.
  19. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2006. "Can anticipatory feelings explain anomalous choices of information sources?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 87-104, July.
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  23. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2011. "Identity, Morals, and Taboos: Beliefs as Assets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 805-855.
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