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Tali Sharot, Max Rollwage, Cass R. Sunstein & Stephen Fleming, Why and when beliefs change: A multi-attribute value-based decision problem, (Nov. 4, 2021).


Abstract: Why people do or do not change their beliefs has been a long-standing puzzle. Sometimes people hold onto false beliefs despite ample contradictory evidence; sometimes they change their beliefs without sufficient reason. Here, we propose that the utility of a belief is derived from the potential outcomes of holding it. Outcomes can be internal (e.g., positive/negative feelings) or external (e.g., material gain/loss), and only some are dependent on belief accuracy. Belief change can then be understood as an economic transaction, in which the multidimensional utility of the old belief is compared against that of the new belief. Change will occur when potential outcomes alter across attributes, for example due to changing environments, or when certain outcomes are made more or less salient.