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Self-Confidence: Intrapersonal Strategies

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  • Roland Benabou

    (Princeton University, NBER, CEPR and IRP)

  • Jean Tirole

    (IDEI, GREMAQ, CERAS, CEPR, and MIT)

Abstract

This paper analyzes the self-identification process and its role in motivation. We build a model of self-confidence where people have imperfect knowledge about their ability, which in most tasks is a complement to effort in determining performance. Higher self-confidence thus enhances motivation, and this creates incentives for the manipulation of self-perception. An individual suffering from time-inconsistency may thus want to enhance the self-confidence of his future selves, so as to limit their procrastination. The benefits of confidence-maintenance must, however, be traded off against the risks of overconfidence (inappropriate tasks being pursued). Moreover, rational inference implies that the individual cannot systematically fool himself. A first application of the model is self-handicapping: to avoid a negative inference about their ability, people may deliberately impair their performance, or choose overambitious tasks. Another application is selective memory or awareness management: people are (endogenously) more likely to remember or consciously acknowledge their successes than their failures. This, in turn, helps explain the widely documented prevalence of self–serving beliefs –that is, the fact that most people have overoptimistic assessments of their own abilities and other desirable traits. We analyze the workings of this psychological immune system and show that it typically leads to multiple equilibriums in cognitive strategies, self confidence, and behavior. Moreover, while active self-esteem maintenance can improve ex-ante welfare, it can also be self-defeating. Systematically looking on the bright side, avoiding negative thoughts and people, etc., can thus be beneficial in certain environments; but in other circumstances one can only lose by playing such games with oneself, and it would be better to always accept who you are and be honest with yourself.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics. in its series Working Papers with number 152.

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Date of creation: Dec 1999
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Handle: RePEc:pri:wwseco:dp209

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Keywords: self-confidence; self-esteem; motivation; time-inconsistency; self-control; self-deception; memory; psychology and economics;

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References

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  1. Ted O'Donoghue and Matthew Rabin ., 1997. "Doing It Now or Later," Economics Working Papers 97-253, University of California at Berkeley.
  2. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Martin J Osborne & Ariel Rubinstein, 2009. "A Course in Game Theory," Levine's Bibliography 814577000000000225, UCLA Department of Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Procrastination on Long-Term Projects," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt1bz181nv, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  2. R. Benabou & J. Tirole, 1999. "Self-Confidence and Social Interactions," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 00s2, Economics Department, Princeton University.
  3. Christian Gollier & Richard Zeckhauser, 2003. "Collective Investment Decision Making with Heterogeneous Time Preferences," CESifo Working Paper Series 915, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Isabelle Brocas & Juan D. Carrillo, 2005. "Biases in Perceptions, Beliefs and Behavior," Levine's Bibliography 172782000000000063, UCLA Department of Economics.
  5. Carrillo, Juan D & Dewatripont, Mathias, 2001. "Promises, Promises…," CEPR Discussion Papers 2680, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Mathias Dewatripont & Juan Carrillo, 2008. "Promises, promises, ..," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/9639, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  7. D.Dragone, 2005. "Incoerenza Dinamica ed Autocontrollo: Proposta per un'Analisi Interdisciplinare," Working Papers 549, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  8. Brocas, Isabelle & Carrillo, Juan D, 2002. "Are We All Better Drivers than Average? Self-Perception and Biased Behaviour," CEPR Discussion Papers 3603, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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