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Self-Confidence: Intrapersonal Strategies

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  • R. Benabou
  • J. Tirole

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 Economics Department, Princeton University in its series Princeton Economic Theory Papers with number 00s1.

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Date of creation: Dec 1999
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Handle: RePEc:wop:prinet:00s1

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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. Martin J Osborne & Ariel Rubinstein, 2009. "A Course in Game Theory," Levine's Bibliography 814577000000000225, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. Juan D. Carrillo & Mathias Dewatripont, 2008. "Promises, Promises, ..," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(531), pages 1453-1473, 08.
  2. Carrillo, Juan D & Dewatripont, Mathias, 2001. "Promises, Promises…," CEPR Discussion Papers 2680, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Roland Babou & Jean Tirole, 1999. "Self-Confidence And Social Interactions," Working Papers 151, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics..
  4. O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Procrastination on Long-Term Projects," Working Papers 02-09, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  5. Isabelle Brocas & Juan D. Carrillo, 2005. "Biases in Perceptions, Beliefs and Behavior," Levine's Bibliography 172782000000000063, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. Christian Gollier & Richard Zeckhauser, 2003. "Collective Investment Decision Making with Heterogeneous Time Preferences," NBER Working Papers 9629, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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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