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Self-Confidence: Intrapersonal Strategies

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  • Bénabou, Roland
  • Tirole, Jean

Abstract

This paper explains why people value self-confidence, and how this concern shapes their informational strategies and intertemporal decisions. The theory has applications in areas as diverse as labour supply, savings and investment, or education and career decisions. People generally have imperfect knowledge about their abilities, which in most tasks are complementary to effort. Self-confidence thus enhances motivation, and this gives a time--inconsistent individual a strong incentive to build up the self-esteem of his future selves, so as to limit their procrastination. The benefits of confidence-maintenance must, however, be traded off against the risks of overconfidence. Moreover, rational inference implies that the individual cannot systematically fool himself. The model explains why people often choose to remain ignorant about their true abilities, or 'blind' to important signals from their work, personal or market environment; and why they sometimes deliberately impair their own performance or choose overambitious tasks in which they are sure to fail (self-handicapping). It also provides a formal account of (endogenously) selective memory or awareness, such as the tendency to remember one's successes more than one's failures. This result, in turn, helps explain why most people have overoptimistic assessments of their own abilities and accomplishments (self-serving beliefs). Another important result is that this 'psychological immune system' can lead to multiple intrapersonal equilibria in cognitive strategies, self confidence, and behaviour. Moreover, while 'positive thinking' and similar forms of self--deception can improve ex-ante welfare, they can also be self-defeating.

Suggested Citation

  • Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2000. "Self-Confidence: Intrapersonal Strategies," CEPR Discussion Papers 2580, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2580
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    Cited by:

    1. O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 2008. "Procrastination on long-term projects," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 161-175, May.
    2. Christian Gollier & Richard Zeckhauser, 2003. "Collective Investment Decision Making with Heterogeneous Time Preferences," NBER Working Papers 9629, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Juan D. Carrillo & Mathias Dewatripont, 2008. "Promises, Promises, ..," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(531), pages 1453-1473, August.
    4. Isabelle Brocas & Juan D. Carrillo, 2005. "Biases in Perceptions, Beliefs and Behavior," Levine's Bibliography 172782000000000063, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. Roland Benabou & Jean Tirole, 1999. "Self-Confidence And Social Interactions," Working Papers 151, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics.
    6. Carrillo, Juan D & Dewatripont, Mathias, 2001. "Promises, Promises…," CEPR Discussion Papers 2680, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Brocas, Isabelle & Carrillo, Juan D, 2002. "Are We All Better Drivers than Average? Self-Perception and Biased Behaviour," CEPR Discussion Papers 3603, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Andrés Solimano, 2010. "The International Mobility of Talent and its Impact on Global Development," Working Papers id:3063, eSocialSciences.
    9. D.Dragone, 2005. "Incoerenza Dinamica ed Autocontrollo: Proposta per un'Analisi Interdisciplinare," Working Papers 549, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Memory; Motivation; Psychology and Economics; Self-Confidence; Self-Control; Self-Deception; Self-Esteem; Time-Inconsistency;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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