Why Being Wrong Can Be Right: Magical Warfare Technologies and the Persistence of False Beliefs
AbstractAcross human societies, one sees many examples of deeply rooted and widely held beliefs that are almost certainly untrue. Examples include beliefs about witchcraft, magic, ordeals, and superstitions. Why are such incorrect beliefs so prevalent and how do they persist? We consider this question through an examination of superstitions and magic associated with conflict in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Focusing on superstitions related to bullet-proofing, we provide theory and case-study evidence showing how these incorrect beliefs persist. Although harmful at the individual-level, we show that they generate Pareto efficient outcomes that have group-level benefits.
CitationNunn, Nathan, and Raul Sanchez de la Sierra. 2017. "Why Being Wrong Can Be Right: Magical Warfare Technologies and the Persistence of False Beliefs." American Economic Review, 107 (5): 582-87. DOI: 10.1257/aer.p20171091
- D74 Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
- D83 Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
- O17 Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
- Z13 Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification