Scientific article
Open access

Anticipatory Anxiety and Wishful Thinking

Published inThe American economic review, vol. 114, no. 4, p. 926-960
Publication date2024-04-01

Across five experiments (N = 1,714), we test whether people engage in wishful thinking to alleviate anxiety about adverse future outcomes. Participants perform pattern recognition tasks in which some patterns may result in an electric shock or a monetary loss. Diagnostic of wishful thinking, participants are less likely to correctly identify patterns that are associated with a shock or loss. Wishful thinking is more pronounced under more ambiguous signals and only reduced by higher accuracy incentives when participants’ cognitive effort reduces ambiguity. Wishful thinking disappears in the domain of monetary gains, indicating that negative emotions are important drivers of the phenomenon. (JEL C91, D12, D83, D91)

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Citation (ISO format)
ENGELMANN, Jan B. et al. Anticipatory Anxiety and Wishful Thinking. In: The American economic review, 2024, vol. 114, n° 4, p. 926–960. doi: 10.1257/aer.20191068
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ISSN of the journal0002-8282

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