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Contracts for Agents with Biased Beliefs: Some Theory and an Experiment

  • Anja Sautmann

This paper experimentally tests the predictions of a principal-agent model in which the agent has biased beliefs about his ability. Overconfi dent workers are found to earn lower wages than underconfi dent ones because they overestimate their expected payoff , and principals adjust their off ers accordingly. Moreover, the profi t-maximizing contract distorts e ffort by varying incentives according to self-con fidence, although only the most successful principals use this strategy. These fi ndings have implications for the labor market; in particular, self-con fidence is often correlated with gender, implying that principals would prefer to hire men over women simply because they are more overconfi dent.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/mic.5.3.124
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Microeconomics.

Volume (Year): 5 (2013)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 124-56

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:5:y:2013:i:3:p:124-56
Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.5.3.124
Contact details of provider: Web page: https://www.aeaweb.org/aej-micro
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  1. Vital Anderhub & Simon Gaechter & Manfred Koenigstein, . "Efficient Contracting and Fair Play in a Simple Principal-Agent Experiment," IEW - Working Papers 018, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Tobias Adrian & Mark M. Westerfield, 2008. "Disagreement and learning in a dynamic contracting model," Staff Reports 269, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  3. Santos-Pinto, Luís, 2003. "Positive self-image and incentives in organizations," MPRA Paper 3141, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Feb 2007.
  4. Hanming Fang & Giuseppe Moscarini, 2004. "Morale Hazard," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm386, Yale School of Management.
  5. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2009. "Bargaining over bets," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 78-97, May.
  6. Jeremy Clark & Lana Friesen, 2006. "Overconfidence in Forecasts of Own Performance: An Experimental Study," Working Papers in Economics 06/09, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
  7. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2008. "Consumer optimism and price discrimination," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 3(4), December.
  8. Leonidas Enrique de la Rosa, 2007. "Overconfidence and Moral Hazard," Economics Working Papers 2007-08, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
  9. 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.
  10. Kfir Eliaz & Ran Spiegler, 2007. "A Mechanism-Design Approach to Speculative Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(3), pages 875-884, 05.
  11. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  12. Augustin Landier & David Thesmar, 2009. "Financial Contracting with Optimistic Entrepreneurs," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(1), pages 117-150, January.
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