Discussion paper

DP17478 Motivated Skepticism

We experimentally study how individuals read strategically-transmitted information when they have preferences over what they will learn. Subjects play disclosure games in which Receivers should interpret messages skeptically. We vary whether the state that Senders communicate about is ego-relevant or neutral for Receivers, and whether skeptical beliefs are aligned or not with what Receivers prefer believing. Skepticism is lower when skeptical beliefs are self-threatening than in neutral settings. When skeptical beliefs are self-serving, skepticism is not enhanced compared to neutral settings. These results demonstrate that individuals' exercise of skepticism depends on the conclusions of skeptical inferences.


Hagenbach, J and (2022), ‘DP17478 Motivated Skepticism‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17478. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17478