Cognitive Flexibility or Moral Commitment? Evidence of Anticipated Belief Distortion

57 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2020

See all articles by Silvia Saccardo

Silvia Saccardo

Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Marta Serra-Garcia

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management

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Date Written: 2020

Abstract

Do people anticipate the conditions that enable them to manipulate their beliefs when confronted with unpleasant information? We investigate whether individuals seek out the “cognitive flexibility” needed to distort beliefs in self-serving ways, or instead attempt to constrain it, committing to unbiased judgment. Experiments with 6500 participants, including financial and legal professionals, show that preferences are heterogeneous: over 40% of advisors prefer flexibility, even if costly. Actively seeking flexibility does not preclude belief distortion. Individuals anticipate the effects of cognitive flexibility and their choice to pursue it responds to incentives, suggesting some sophistication about the cognitive constraints to belief distortion.

Keywords: belief distortion, morality, sophistication, commitment, experiments

JEL Classification: D830, D910, C910

Suggested Citation

Saccardo, Silvia and Serra-Garcia, Marta, Cognitive Flexibility or Moral Commitment? Evidence of Anticipated Belief Distortion (2020). CESifo Working Paper No. 8529, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3692918

Silvia Saccardo (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University, Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Marta Serra-Garcia

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Rady School of Management
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

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