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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. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2004. "Incentives and Prosocial Behaviour," CEPR Discussion Papers 4633, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Andrea Prat, 2002. "The wrong kind of transparency," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3679, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Ing-Haw Cheng & Sahil Raina & Wei Xiong, 2014. "Wall Street and the Housing Bubble," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(9), pages 2797-2829, September.
  4. 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.
  5. Jacob Goeree & Thomas Palfrey & Brian Rogers, 2004. "Self-Correcting Information Cascades," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000153, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. Brunnermeier, Markus & Gollier, Christian & Parker, Jonathan, 2007. "Optimal Beliefs, Asset Prices, and the Preference for Skewed Returns," IDEI Working Papers 429, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  7. 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.
  8. Eric Van den Steen, 2005. "Organizational Beliefs and Managerial Vision," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 256-283, April.
  9. Georg Weizsacker, 2010. "Do We Follow Others When We Should? A Simple Test of Rational Expectations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2340-60, December.
  10. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 1996. "The Theory of Learning in Games," Levine's Working Paper Archive 624, David K. Levine.
  11. Loewenstein, George, 1987. "Anticipation and the Valuation of Delayed Consumption," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(387), pages 666-84, September.
  12. Hanming Fang & Giuseppe Moscarini, 2003. "Morale Hazard," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1422, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  13. 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.
  14. Ben Hermalin, 1996. "Toward an Economic Theory of Leadership: Leading by Example," Working Papers _006, University of California at Berkeley, Haas School of Business.
  15. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520, 07.
  16. Caplin, Andrew & Leahy, John, 1994. "Business as Usual, Market Crashes, and Wisdom after the Fact," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 548-65, June.
  17. Olivier Compte & Andrew Postlewaite, 2001. "Confidence-Enhanced Performance," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-023, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 May 2003.
  18. Chamley, Christophe & Gale, Douglas, 1994. "Information Revelation and Strategic Delay in a Model of Investment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(5), pages 1065-85, September.
  19. Goetzmann, William N & Peles, Nadav, 1997. "Cognitive Dissonance and Mutual Fund Investors," Journal of Financial Research, Southern Finance Association;Southwestern Finance Association, vol. 20(2), pages 145-58, Summer.
  20. Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2002. "Willpower and Personal Rules," CEPR Discussion Papers 3143, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  21. repec:hal:journl:hal-00461108 is not listed on IDEAS
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. Augustin Landier & David Sraer & David Thesmar, 2009. "Optimal Dissent in Organizations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(2), pages 761-794.
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