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The Economics of Faith: Using an Apocalyptic Prophecy to Elicit Religious Beliefs in the Field

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  • Ned Augenblick
  • Jesse M. Cunha
  • Ernesto Dal Bó
  • Justin M. Rao

Abstract

We model religious faith as a "demand for beliefs," following the logic of the Pascalian wager. We then demonstrate how an experimental intervention can exploit standard elicitation techniques to measure religious belief by varying prizes associated with making choices contrary to one's belief in a, crucially, falsifiable religious proposition. We implemented this approach with a group that expected the "End of the World" to happen on May 21, 2011 by offering prizes payable before and after May 21st. The results suggest the existence of a demand for extreme, sincere beliefs that was unresponsive to experimental manipulations in price.

Suggested Citation

  • Ned Augenblick & Jesse M. Cunha & Ernesto Dal Bó & Justin M. Rao, 2012. "The Economics of Faith: Using an Apocalyptic Prophecy to Elicit Religious Beliefs in the Field," NBER Working Papers 18641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18641
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    1. repec:eee:joepsy:v:63:y:2017:i:c:p:184-198 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:26:y:2017:i:c:p:21-29 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Skali, Ahmed, 2017. "Moralizing gods and armed conflict," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 184-198.
    4. Leonardo Bursztyn & Michael Callen & Bruno Ferman & Saad Gulzar & Ali Hasanain & Noam Yuchtman, 2014. "Identifying Ideology: Experimental Evidence on Anti-Americanism in Pakistan," NBER Working Papers 20153, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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