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Managing self-confidence: theory and experimental evidence

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  • Markus Mobius
  • Muriel Niederle
  • Paul Niehaus
  • Tanya S. Rosenblat

Abstract

Evidence from social psychology suggests that agents process information about their own ability in a biased manner. This evidence has motivated exciting research in behavioral economics, but also garnered critics who point out that it is potentially consistent with standard Bayesian updating. We implement a direct experimental test. We study a large sample of 656 undergraduate students, tracking the evolution of their beliefs about their own relative performance on an IQ test as they receive noisy feedback from a known data-generating process. Our design lets us repeatedly measure the complete relevant belief distribution incentive-compatibly. We find that subjects (1) place approximately full weight on their priors, but (2) are asymmetric, over-weighting positive feedback relative to negative, and (3) conservative, updating too little in response to both positive and negative signals. These biases are substantially less pronounced in a placebo experiment where ego is not at stake. We also find that (4) a substantial portion of subjects are averse to receiving information about their ability, and that (5) less confident subjects are more likely to be averse. We unify these phenomena by showing that they all arise naturally in a simple model of optimally biased Bayesian information processing.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Working Papers with number 11-14.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbwp:11-14

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Keywords: Human behavior ; Bayesian statistical decision theory;

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References

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  1. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2005. "Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete too Much?," Discussion Papers 04-030, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  2. Benoît, Jean-Pierre & Dubra, Juan, 2008. "Overconfidence?," MPRA Paper 8879, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Grether, David M., 1990. "Testing Bayes Rule and the Representativeness Heuristic: Some Experimental Evidence," Working Papers 724, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  4. Jonathan Parker & Markus K Brunnermeier, 2002. "Optimal Expectations," FMG Discussion Papers dp434, Financial Markets Group.
  5. Eliaz, Kfir & Schotter, Andrew, 2010. "Paying for confidence: An experimental study of the demand for non-instrumental information," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 304-324, November.
  6. Lu�s Santos-Pinto & Joel Sobel, 2005. "A Model of Positive Self-Image in Subjective Assessments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1386-1402, December.
  7. Theo Offerman & Joep Sonnemans & Gijs Van De Kuilen & Peter P. Wakker, 2009. "A Truth Serum for Non-Bayesians: Correcting Proper Scoring Rules for Risk Attitudes ," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(4), pages 1461-1489.
  8. Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2012. "An unlucky feeling: Overconfidence and noisy feedback," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 510-524.
  9. Grether, David M., . "Bayes Rule as a Descriptive Model: The Representativeness Heuristic," Working Papers 245, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  10. Larry Epstein & Jawwad Noor & Alvaro Sandroni, 2005. "Non-Bayesian Updating: a Theoretical Framework," RCER Working Papers 518, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  11. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory And Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79, February.
  12. James H. Stock & Motohiro Yogo, 2002. "Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression," NBER Technical Working Papers 0284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Juan Dubra & Jean-Pierre Benoit, 2011. "Apparent Overconfidence," Documentos de Trabajo/Working Papers 1106, Facultad de Ciencias Empresariales y Economia. Universidad de Montevideo..
  14. Olivier Compte & Andrew Postlewaite, 2004. "Confidence-Enhanced Performance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1536-1557, December.
  15. repec:bla:restud:v:76:y:2009:i:4:p:1461-1489 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Eric Van den Steen, 2004. "Rational Overoptimism (and Other Biases)," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1141-1151, September.
  17. Gary Charness & Aldo Rustichini & Jeroen van de Ven, 2011. "Self-Confidence and Strategic Deterrence," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 11-151/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  18. Carrillo, Juan D & Mariotti, Thomas, 2000. "Strategic Ignorance as a Self-Disciplining Device," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(3), pages 529-44, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Grossman, Zachary & van der Weele, Joël, 2013. "Self-Image and Strategic Ignorance in Moral Dilemmas," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0bp6z29t, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  2. Beugnot, Julie & Fortin, Bernard & Lacroix, Guy & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2013. "Social Networks and Peer Effects at Work," IZA Discussion Papers 7521, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Albrecht, Konstanze & von Essen, Emma & Parys, Juliane & Szech, Nora, 2013. "Updating, self-confidence, and discrimination," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 144-169.
  4. Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2012. "An unlucky feeling: Overconfidence and noisy feedback," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 510-524.

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