IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

An Unlucky Feeling: Persistent Overestimation of Absolute Performance with Noisy Feedback


  • Grossman, Zachary
  • Owens, David


How does overconfidence arise and persist in the face of experience and feedback? We examine experimentally how individuals' beliefs about their absolute, as opposed to relative, performance on a quiz react to noisy, but unbiased, feedback. Participants believe themselves to have received `unlucky' feedback and they overestimate their own scores, but they exhibit no overconfidence in non-ego-relevant beliefs---in this case, about others' scores. Unlike previous studies of relative performance estimates, we find this to be driven by overconfident priors, as opposed to biased updating, which suggests that social comparisons contribute to biased information processing. While feedback improves performance estimates, this learning does not translate into improved estimates of subsequent performances. This suggests that people use performance feedback to update their beliefs about their ability differently than they do to update their beliefs about their performance, contributing to the persistence of overconfidence.

Suggested Citation

  • Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2011. "An Unlucky Feeling: Persistent Overestimation of Absolute Performance with Noisy Feedback," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0dh5s03j, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt0dh5s03j

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:;origin=repeccitec
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Malmendier, Ulrike & Tate, Geoffrey, 2008. "Who makes acquisitions? CEO overconfidence and the market's reaction," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 20-43, July.
    2. Markus M. Mobius & Muriel Niederle & Paul Niehaus & Tanya Rosenblat, 2011. "Managing self-confidence: theory and experimental evidence," Working Papers 11-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    3. 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.
    4. David Cooper & John Kagel, 2008. "Learning and transfer in signaling games," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 34(3), pages 415-439, March.
    5. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sobel, Joel, 1987. "Equilibrium Selection in Signaling Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 647-661, May.
    6. Jean‐Pierre Benoît & Juan Dubra, 2011. "Apparent Overconfidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(5), pages 1591-1625, September.
    7. David Cooper & John H. Kagel, 2003. "Lessons Learned: Generalizing Learning Across Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 202-207, May.
    8. Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz & Rustichini, Aldo, 2010. "Overconfidence is a Social Signaling Bias," IZA Discussion Papers 4840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Juan Dubra & Jean-Pierre Benoit, 2011. "Apparent Overconfidence," Documentos de Trabajo/Working Papers 1106, Facultad de Ciencias Empresariales y Economia. Universidad de Montevideo..
    10. Ertac, Seda, 2011. "Does self-relevance affect information processing? Experimental evidence on the response to performance and non-performance feedback," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 80(3), pages 532-545.
    11. David J. Cooper & John H. Kagel, 2009. "The Role of Context and Team Play in Cross-Game Learning," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(5), pages 1101-1139, September.
    12. Kagel, John H., 1995. "Cross-game learning: Experimental evidence from first-price and English common value auctions," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 163-170, August.
    13. Erik Hoelzl & Aldo Rustichini, 2005. "Overconfident: Do You Put Your Money On It?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(503), pages 305-318, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Markus M. Mobius & Muriel Niederle & Paul Niehaus & Tanya Rosenblat, 2011. "Managing self-confidence: theory and experimental evidence," Working Papers 11-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    2. Camille Cornand & Frank Heinemann, 2014. "Measuring agents’ reaction to private and public information in games with strategic complementarities," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 17(1), pages 61-77, March.
    3. Mikołaj Czajkowski & Nick Hanley & Karine Nyborg, 2014. "Social norms, morals and self-interest as determinants of pro-environment behaviour," Working Papers 2014-17, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.
    4. Christoph Bühren & Stefan Krabel, 2015. "Individual Performance after Success and Failure - A Natural Experiment," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201505, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    5. Jeffrey V. Butler, 2016. "Inequality and Relative Ability Beliefs," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(593), pages 907-948, June.
    6. David Owens Jr. & Zachary Grossman Jr. & Ryan Fackler Jr., 2014. "The Control Premium: A Preference for Payoff Autonomy," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 138-161, November.
    7. Gary Charness & Aldo Rustichini & Jeroen van de Ven, 2013. "Self-Confidence and Strategic Behavior," CESifo Working Paper Series 4517, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Proto, Eugenio & Sgroi, Daniel, 2017. "Biased beliefs and imperfect information," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 186-202.
    9. Parkhurst, Gregory M. & Nowell, Clifford, 2014. "The Role of Confidence in Truthful Revelation of Private Values," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 43(2), August.
    10. LaRiviere, Jacob & Czajkowski, Mikołaj & Hanley, Nick & Aanesen, Margrethe & Falk-Petersen, Jannike & Tinch, Dugald, 2014. "The value of familiarity: Effects of knowledge and objective signals on willingness to pay for a public good," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 376-389.
    11. Alexander Coutts, 2017. "Good news and bad news are still news: Experimental evidence on belief updating," NOVAFRICA Working Paper Series wp1703, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia, NOVAFRICA.
    12. Peter Schwardmann & Joël van der Weele, 2016. "Deception and Self-Deception," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-012/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    13. Schwardmann, Peter & van der Weele, Joel, 2017. "Deception and Self-Deception," Rationality and Competition Discussion Paper Series 25, CRC TRR 190 Rationality and Competition.
    14. Noémi Berlin & Marie-Pierre Dargnies, 2012. "Linking Beliefs to Willingness to Compete," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00755660, HAL.
    15. Nick Hanley & Mikolaj Czajkowski, 2016. "What is the Causal Impact of Knowledge on Preferences in Stated Preference Studies?," Discussion Papers in Environment and Development Economics 2016-09, University of St. Andrews, School of Geography and Sustainable Development.
    16. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2015. "How Do College Students Respond to Public Information about Earnings?," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(2), pages 117-169.
    17. Jacob LaRiviere & Mikolaj Czajkowski & Nick Hanley & Katherine Simpson, 2015. "What is the Causal Effect of Knowledge on Preferences?," Discussion Papers in Environment and Development Economics 2015-09, University of St. Andrews, School of Geography and Sustainable Development.
    18. LaRiviere, Jacob & Czajkowski, Mikolaj & Hanley, Nick & Aanesen, Margrethe & Falk-Peterson, Jannike & Tinch, Dugald, 2014. "Effects of Experience, Knowledge and Signals on Willingness to Pay for a Public Good," SIRE Discussion Papers 2014-008, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    19. Czajkowski, Mikolaj & Hanley, Nicholas & LaRiviere, Jacob & Simpson, Katherine, 2014. "What is the Causal Effect of Information and Learning about a Public Good on Willingness to Pay?," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2014-05, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
    20. Thomas Buser & Leonie Gerhards & Joël J. van der Weele, 2016. "Measuring Responsiveness to Feedback as a Personal Trait," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-043/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    21. Gary Charness & Aldo Rustichini & Jeroen van de Ven, 2011. "Self-Confidence and Strategic Deterrence," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 11-151/1, Tinbergen Institute.
    22. Alexander Coutts, 2017. "Good news and bad news are still news: Experimental evidence on belief updating," FEUNL Working Paper Series novaf:wp1703, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Economia.
    23. Coutts, Alexander, 2015. "Testing Models of Belief Bias: An Experiment," MPRA Paper 67507, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    24. Matthew Wiswall & Basit Zafar, 2011. "Belief updating among college students: evidence from experimental variation in information," Staff Reports 516, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

    More about this item


    overconfidence; feedback; overestimation; absolute performance; Bayesian updating; biased updating; information processing; learning transfer; cross-game learning; quadratic scoring rule; behavioral economics; experimental economics; Social and Behavioral Sciences;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt0dh5s03j. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lisa Schiff). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.