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Overconfidence is a Social Signaling Bias

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Author Info

  • Burks, Stephen V.

    ()
    (University of Minnesota, Morris)

  • Carpenter, Jeffrey P.

    ()
    (Middlebury College)

  • Götte, Lorenz

    ()
    (University of Lausanne)

  • Rustichini, Aldo

    ()
    (University of Minnesota)

Abstract

Evidence from psychology and economics indicates that many individuals overestimate their ability, both absolutely and relatively. We test three different theories about observed relative overconfidence. The first theory notes that simple statistical comparisons (for example, whether the fraction of individuals rating own skill above the median value is larger than half) are compatible (Benoît and Dubra, 2007) with a Bayesian model of updating from a common prior and truthful statements. We show that such model imposes testable restrictions on relative ability judgments, and we test the restrictions. Data on 1,016 individuals' relative ability judgments about two cognitive tests rejects the Bayesian model. The second theory suggests that self-image concerns asymmetrically affect the choice to get new information about one’s abilities, and this asymmetry produces overconfidence (Kőszegi, 2006; Weinberg, 2006). We test an important specific prediction of these models: individuals with a higher belief will be less likely to search for further information about their skill, because this information might make this belief worse. Our data also reject this prediction. The third theory is that overconfidence is induced by the desire to send positive signals to others about one’s own skill; this suggests either a bias in judgment, strategic lying, or both. We provide evidence that personality traits strongly affect relative ability judgments in a pattern that is consistent with this third theory. Our results together suggest that overconfidence in statements is most likely to be induced by social concerns than by either of the other two factors.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4840.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4840

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Related research

Keywords: numeracy; overconfidence; Bayesian updating; self-image; social signaling; field experiment; IQ; personality; MPQ;

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Citations

Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Overconfidence Looks Good
    by Robin Hanson in Overcoming Bias on 2010-04-06 22:35:34
Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
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Cited by:
  1. repec:cge:warwcg:54 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Benoît, Jean-Pierre & Dubra, Juan & Moore, Don, 2009. "Does the Better-Than-Average Effect Show That People Are Overconfident?: Two Experiments," MPRA Paper 44956, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 11 Mar 2013.
  3. Engelmann, Dirk & Strobel, Martin, 2012. "Deconstruction and reconstruction of an anomaly," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 678-689.
  4. Proto, Eugenio & Sgroi, Daniel, 2012. "Self-Centered Beliefs : An Empirical Approach," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 978, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  5. Proto, Eugenio & Sgroi, Daniel, 2011. "False Consensus in Economic Agents," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 968, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  6. Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2012. "An unlucky feeling: Overconfidence and noisy feedback," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 510-524.
  7. Brice Corgnet & Roberto Hernán-González & Stephen Rassenti, 2011. "Real Effort, Real Leisure and Real-time Supervision: Incentives and Peer Pressure in Virtual Organizations," Working Papers 11-05, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  8. Jean‐Pierre Benoît & Juan Dubra, 2011. "Apparent Overconfidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(5), pages 1591-1625, 09.
  9. Isabelle Vialle & Luis Santos-Pinto & Jean-Louis Rullière, 2011. "Self-Confidence and Teamwork : An Experimental Test," Working Papers 1126, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Université Lyon 2, Ecole Normale Supérieure.
  10. repec:cge:warwcg:74 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Hendrik van Broekhuizen & Dieter von Fintel, 2010. "Who Responds to Voluntary Cognitive Tests in Household Surveys? The Role of Labour Market Status, Respondent Confidence, Motivation and a Culture of Learning in South Africa," Working Papers 27/2010, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

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