Dispelling misconceived beliefs: the case of rent control

  • Date: Nov 21, 2018
  • Time: 17:00
  • Speaker: Jordi Brandts
  • Barcelona Graduate School of Economics
  • Location: MPI
  • Room: Ground Floor
False beliefs about natural, health, economic and social issues are pervasive in society. Many persist even when contradicted by scientific evidence. Research in cognitive psychology shows that this behavior is related to several cognitive biases that affect the human mind. Consequently, dispelling misconceptions may be hard, even after exposure to sound information. Indeed, college level students stick to false previous beliefs on economic issues after a semester-long exposure to an economic principles course, independently of grade performance. In this paper we report on the results of field and lab experiments to investigate the effect of a particular communication strategy, the refutation text, on a widespread economic misconception: the belief that rent controls make housing available to more people. In the field experiment we use two cohorts of students, where one is used as control group. We find that, in the field experiment, the intervention has a statistically significant impact on the previously held misconception, inducing a belief change aligned with expert reasoning and evidence. In the lab experiment we use a control group and two treatment groups, one where the refutation text is read individually and a second one where it is discussed in small groups.
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