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Anticipatory Anxiety and Wishful Thinking

Author

Listed:
  • Jan Engelmann

    (University of Amsterdam)

  • Maël Lebreton

    (University of Geneva)

  • Peter Schwardmann

    (LMU Munich)

  • Joël van der Weele

    (University of Amsterdam)

  • Li-Ang Chang

    (CREED - University of Amsterdam)

Abstract

It is widely hypothesized that anxiety and worry about an uncertain future lead to the adoption of comforting beliefs or "wishful thinking". However, there is little direct causal evidence for this effect. In our experiment, participants perform a visual pattern recognition task where some patterns may result in the delivery of an electric shock, a proven way of inducing anxiety. Participants engage in significant wishful thinking, as they are less likely to correctly identify patterns that they know may lead to a shock. Greater ambiguity of the pattern facilitates wishful thinking. Raising incentives for accuracy does not significantly decrease it.

Suggested Citation

  • Jan Engelmann & Maël Lebreton & Peter Schwardmann & Joël van der Weele & Li-Ang Chang, 2019. "Anticipatory Anxiety and Wishful Thinking," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 19-042/I, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20190042
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    File URL: https://papers.tinbergen.nl/19042.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    9. Karl Schlag & James Tremewan & Joël Weele, 2015. "A penny for your thoughts: a survey of methods for eliciting beliefs," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(3), pages 457-490, September.
    10. Guillaume Hollard & Sébastien Massoni & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2016. "In search of good probability assessors: an experimental comparison of elicitation rules for confidence judgments," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-01306258, HAL.
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    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Policy responses > Behavioral

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    Cited by:

    1. Felix Chopra & Ingar K. Haaland & Christopher Roth, 2019. "Do People Value More Informative News?," CESifo Working Paper Series 8026, CESifo.
    2. Luc Bridet & Peter Schwardmann, 2020. "Selling Dreams: Endogenous Optimism in Lending Markets," CESifo Working Paper Series 8271, CESifo.
    3. Victor Augias & Daniel M. A. Barreto, 2020. "Wishful Thinking: Persuasion and Polarization," Papers 2011.13846, arXiv.org, revised Nov 2020.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    confidence; beliefs; anticipatory utility; anxiety; motivated cognition;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior

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