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Belief Formation, Second Version


  • Olivier Compte

    () (Paris School of Economics)

  • Andrew Postlewaite

    () (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)


Consider an agent who is unsure of the state of the world and faces computational bounds on mental processing. The agent receives a sequence of signals imperfectly correlated with the true state that he will use to take a single decision. The agent is assumed to have a finite number of "states of mind" that quantify his beliefs about the relative likelihood of the states, and uses the signals he receives to move from one state to another. At a random stopping time, the agent will be called upon to make a decision based solely on his mental state at that time. We show that under quite general conditions it is optimal that the agent ignore signals that are not very informative, that is, signals for which the likelihood of the states is nearly equal. This model provides a possible explanation of systematic inference mistakes people may make.

Suggested Citation

  • Olivier Compte & Andrew Postlewaite, 2009. "Belief Formation, Second Version," PIER Working Paper Archive 12-027, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Jul 2012.
  • Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:12-027

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hvide, Hans K., 2002. "Pragmatic beliefs and overconfidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 15-28, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Olivier Gossner & Jakub Steiner, 2016. "Optimal Illusion of Control and Related Perception Biases," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp571, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.

    More about this item


    Decision Theory; Beliefs; Behavioral Economics;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty


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