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Heritability of Overconfidence


  • David Cesarini
  • Magnus Johannesson
  • Paul Lichtenstein
  • Björn Wallace


Empirical evidence suggests that people on average overestimate their own ability in a variety of circumstances. Little is known, however, about the origins of such overconfidence. To shed some light on this issue, we use the classic twin design to estimate the genetic and environmental contributions to individual differences in overconfidence. We collect data on overconfidence among 460 twin pairs. Overconfidence is measured as the difference between the perceived and actual rank in cognitive ability. Cognitive ability is measured using a 20-minute test of general intelligence. We find a highly significant joint effect of genes and common environment, but our estimates of the relative contributions of genetic and common environmental variation are less precise. According to our point estimates, genetic differences explain 16-34% of the variation in overconfidence depending on the definition of overconfidence used and common environmental differences explain 5-11%. (JEL: C91, D87, Z13) (c) 2009 by the European Economic Association.

Suggested Citation

  • David Cesarini & Magnus Johannesson & Paul Lichtenstein & Björn Wallace, 2009. "Heritability of Overconfidence," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 617-627, 04-05.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:7:y:2009:i:2-3:p:617-627

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:eee:jeborg:v:142:y:2017:i:c:p:404-424 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Cliff A. Robb & Patryk Babiarz & Ann Woodyard & Martin C. Seay, 2015. "Bounded Rationality and Use of Alternative Financial Services," Journal of Consumer Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(2), pages 407-435, July.
    3. Bredtmann, Julia & Smith, Nina, 2015. "Inequalities in Educational Outcomes: How Important is the Family?," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 112861, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    4. Lundborg, Petter & Stenberg, Anders, 2009. "Nature, Nurture and Egalitarian Policy: What Can We Learn from Molecular Genetics?," IZA Discussion Papers 4585, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Filippin, Antonio & Paccagnella, Marco, 2012. "Family background, self-confidence and economic outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 824-834.
    6. Matthew J. Lindquist & Joeri Sol & Mirjam Van Praag, 2015. "Why Do Entrepreneurial Parents Have Entrepreneurial Children?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 269-296.
    7. Cronqvist, Henrik & Siegel, Stephan, 2014. "The genetics of investment biases," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(2), pages 215-234.
    8. Hjalmarsson, Randi & Lindquist, Matthew J., 2013. "The origins of intergenerational associations in crime: Lessons from Swedish adoption data," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(C), pages 68-81.
    9. Philipp Koellinger & Matthijs Loos & Patrick Groenen & A. Thurik & Fernando Rivadeneira & Frank Rooij & André Uitterlinden & Albert Hofman, 2010. "Genome-wide association studies in economics and entrepreneurship research: promises and limitations," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 1-18, July.
    10. Stenberg, Anders, 2013. "Interpreting estimates of heritability – A note on the twin decomposition," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 201-205.
    11. Kataria, Mitesh, 2017. "How long do you think it will take? Field Evidence on Gender Differences in Time Optimism," Working Papers in Economics 694, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    12. Burnham, Terence C., 2013. "Toward a neo-Darwinian synthesis of neoclassical and behavioral economics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 90(S), pages 113-127.
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    14. Lundborg, Petter & Stenberg, Anders, 2010. "Nature, nurture and socioeconomic policy--What can we learn from molecular genetics?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 320-330, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D87 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Neuroeconomics
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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