A Model of Competing Narratives

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We formalize the argument that political disagreements can be traced to a “clash of narratives.” Drawing on the “Bayesian Networks” literature, we represent a narrative by a causal model that maps actions into consequences, weaving a selection of other random variables into the story. Narratives generate beliefs by interpreting long-run correlations between these variables. An equilibrium is defined as a probability distribution over narrative-policy pairs that maximize a representative agent’s anticipatory utility, capturing the idea that people are drawn to hopeful narratives. Our equilibrium analysis sheds light on the structure of prevailing narratives, the variables they involve, the policies they sustain, and their contribution to political polarization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3786-3816
Number of pages31
JournalAmerican Economic Review
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics


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