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Optimal Expectations

Author

Listed:
  • Markus K. Brunnermeier

    (Princeton University)

  • Jonathan A. Parker

    (Princeton University and NBER)

Abstract

This paper introduces a tractable, structural model of subjective beliefs. Since agents that plan for the future care about expected future utility flows, current felicity can be increased by believing that better outcomes are more likely. On the other hand, expectations that are biased towards optimism worsen decision making, leading to poorer realized outcomes on average. Optimal expectations balance these forces by maximizing the total well-being of an agent over time. We apply our framework of optimal expectations to three different economic settings. In a portfolio choice problem, agents overestimate the return of their investment and under diversify. In general equilibrium, agents? prior beliefs are endogenously heterogeneous, leading to gambling. Second, in a consumption-saving problem with stochastic income, agents are both overconfident and overoptimistic, and consume more than implied by rational beliefs early in life. Third, in choosing when to undertake a single task with an uncertain cost, agents exhibit several features of procrastination, including regret, intertemporal preference, reversal, and a greater readiness to accept commitment.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus K. Brunnermeier & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Optimal Expectations," Working Papers 146, Princeton University, School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:wwseco:dp221.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    5. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-319, June.
    6. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory and Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79.
    7. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Expectations formation; beliefs; overconfidence; wishful thinking; procrastination; gambling;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates

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