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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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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
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  1. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  2. Fang, Hanming & Moscarini, Giuseppe, 2005. "Morale hazard," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 749-777, May.
  3. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101, 08.
  4. Vital Anderhub & Simon Gächter & Manfred Königstein, 2002. "Efficient Contracting and Fair Play in a Simple Principal-Agent Experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-27, June.
  5. Jeremy Clark & Lana Friesen, 2009. "Overconfidence in Forecasts of Own Performance: An Experimental Study," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(534), pages 229-251, 01.
  6. Kfir Eliaz & Rani Spiegler, 2005. "A Mechanism-Design Approach to Speculative Trade," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000429, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2008. "Consumer optimism and price discrimination," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 3(4), December.
  8. 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.
  9. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2009. "Bargaining over bets," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 78-97, May.
  10. Santos-Pinto, Luís, 2003. "Positive self-image and incentives in organizations," MPRA Paper 3141, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Feb 2007.
  11. Tobias Adrian & Mark M. Westerfield, 2008. "Disagreement and learning in a dynamic contracting model," Staff Reports 269, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  12. Leonidas Enrique de la Rosa, 2007. "Overconfidence and Moral Hazard," Economics Working Papers 2007-08, School of Economics and Management, University of Aarhus.
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