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Managing Self-Confidence: Theory and Experimental Evidence

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  • Markus M. 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 has 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 causally 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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17014.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17014

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References

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  1. 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.
  2. Benoît, Jean-Pierre & Dubra, Juan, 2007. "Overconfidence?," MPRA Paper 6017, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Nov 2007.
  3. Markus K. Brunnermeier & Jonathan A. Parker, 2004. "Optimal Expectations," NBER Working Papers 10707, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Larry G. Epstein & Jawwad Noor & Alvaro Sandroni, 2005. "Non-Bayesian Updating: A Theoretical Framework," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2005-049, Boston University - Department of Economics.
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  6. 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.
  7. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2005. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," NBER Working Papers 11474, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Jean‐Pierre Benoît & Juan Dubra, 2011. "Apparent Overconfidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(5), pages 1591-1625, 09.
  9. Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2010. "An Unlucky Feeling: Overconfidence and Noisy Feedback," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt13r2f3gt, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  10. Caplin, Andrew & Leahy, John, 1997. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory and Anticipatory Feelings," Working Papers 97-37, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
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  12. 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.
  13. repec:bla:restud:v:76:y:2009:i:4:p:1461-1489 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Eric Van den Steen, 2004. "Rational Overoptimism (and Other Biases)," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1141-1151, September.
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  17. 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.
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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. 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.
  3. Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2010. "An Unlucky Feeling: Overconfidence and Noisy Feedback," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt13r2f3gt, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.

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