Main content

In times of increasing societal polarization, the question arises how apparent differences in preferences and beliefs come about and what consequences they hold. Differences in attitudes are mirrored, for instance, in varying views regarding what is perceived as being just or fair, but also in actual decision-making, for example, in the career choice or the choice of the field of study. Understanding the causes and consequences of opposing preferences and beliefs can help to design institutions in a way that reflects them in the best way possible.

These considerations build the fundament of the bridging project "Meritocratic beliefs, motivated reasoning and goal dis-/engagement: University admissions as a natural experiment" (MERI). In this project, we analyze how individual experiences and interests shape the legitimization of selection procedures. Through the example of the application for the fields of study of human medicine, dental medicine, veteran medicine, and pharmacy – the most prestigious and exclusive fields of study in Germany – we pose the following questions. Which consequences do success and failure in the application for a place of study have for meritocratic preferences and individual decisions, as for instance, a renewed application? Do success and failure cause motivated beliefs, for example about the efficiency or fairness of the selection procedure? How important are these beliefs for individual decision-making? Are there differences between different social groups in motivated beliefs and in the relationship between a successful application, beliefs and educational outcomes?

By analyzing these questions, our bridging project connects the empirical analysis of application processes for study admission with the general theoretical and conceptional question how people form (motivated) beliefs and meritocratic convictions, and how these translate into (social group specific) educational outcomes. Thereby, we make innovative and interdisciplinary contributions to the research on equality of opportunity and the behavioral economic research on "motivated reasoning".