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



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

Suggested Citation

  • Anja Sautmann, 2011. "Contracts for Agents with Biased Beliefs: Some Theory and an Experiment," Working Papers 2011-10, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2011-10

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Luís Santos-Pinto, 2008. "Positive Self-image and Incentives in Organisations," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(531), pages 1315-1332, August.
    2. Eliaz, Kfir & Spiegler, Ran, 2008. "Consumer optimism and price discrimination," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 3(4), December.
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    6. de la Rosa, Leonidas Enrique, 2011. "Overconfidence and moral hazard," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 429-451.
    7. 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, January.
    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. Vital Anderhub & Simon Gächter & Manfred Königstein, 2002. "Efficient Contracting and Fair Play in a Simple Principal-Agent Experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 5(1), pages 5-27, June.
    10. Tobias Adrian & Mark M. Westerfield, 2009. "Disagreement and Learning in a Dynamic Contracting Model," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(10), pages 3873-3906, October.
    11. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2007. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1067-1101.
    12. Kfir Eliaz & Ran Spiegler, 2007. "A Mechanism-Design Approach to Speculative Trade," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(3), pages 875-884, May.
    13. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Marchegiani, Lucia & Reggiani, Tommaso & Rizzolli, Matteo, 2016. "Loss averse agents and lenient supervisors in performance appraisal," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 131(PA), pages 183-197.
    2. Valeria Maggian & Antonio Nicolò, 2016. "The wrong man for the job: biased beliefs and job mismatching," Post-Print halshs-01324733, HAL.
    3. Lucia Marchegiani & Tommaso Reggiani & Matteo Rizzolli, 2013. "Severity vs. Leniency Bias in Performance Appraisal: Experimental evidence," BEMPS - Bozen Economics & Management Paper Series BEMPS01, Faculty of Economics and Management at the Free University of Bozen.
    4. Ian Larkin & Stephen Leider, 2012. "Incentive Schemes, Sorting, and Behavioral Biases of Employees: Experimental Evidence," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 184-214, May.
    5. Thoma, Carmen, 2013. "Is Underconfidence Favored over Overconfidence? An Experiment on the Perception of a Biased Self-Assessment," Discussion Papers in Economics 17460, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    6. Englmaier, Florian & Schüßler, Katharina, 2015. "Complementarities of HRM Practices," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 503, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    7. Florian Englmaier & Katharina Schüßler, 2015. "Complementarities of HRM Practices - A Case for Employing Multiple Methods and Integrating Multiple Fields," CESifo Working Paper Series 5249, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Brown, Jason L. & Farrington, Sukari & Sprinkle, Geoffrey B., 2016. "Biased self-assessments, feedback, and employees' compensation plan choices," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 45-59.
    9. Carmen Thoma, 2016. "Under- versus overconfidence: an experiment on how others perceive a biased self-assessment," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(1), pages 218-239, March.

    More about this item



    JEL classification:

    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law

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