Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



In three sets of experiments involving 5,432 subjects, we show that agents make more errors when doing so allows them to justify selfish behavior. We show that errors relating to addition arise when they can help to justify selfishness but are eliminated when selfish motives are removed. In addition, we show that selfish motives can either exacerbate or mitigate errors relating to correlation neglect and anchoring. Our results are consistent with individuals acting confused as a justification for selfish behavior.


decision making, rationalization, motivated reasoning

Working Paper Number


Copyright/Permission Statement

All findings, interpretations, and conclusions of this paper represent the views of the authors and not those of the Wharton School or the Pension Research Council. © 2022 Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.

Included in

Economics Commons



Date Posted: 29 September 2022