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Overconfidence is a Social Signaling Bias

Author

Listed:
  • Burks, Stephen V.

    () (University of Minnesota, Morris)

  • Carpenter, Jeffrey P.

    () (Middlebury College)

  • Götte, Lorenz

    () (University of Bonn)

  • Rustichini, Aldo

    () (University of Minnesota)

Abstract

Evidence from psychology and economics indicates that many individuals overestimate their ability, both absolutely and relatively. We test three different theories about observed relative overconfidence. The first theory notes that simple statistical comparisons (for example, whether the fraction of individuals rating own skill above the median value is larger than half) are compatible (Benoît and Dubra, 2007) with a Bayesian model of updating from a common prior and truthful statements. We show that such model imposes testable restrictions on relative ability judgments, and we test the restrictions. Data on 1,016 individuals' relative ability judgments about two cognitive tests rejects the Bayesian model. The second theory suggests that self-image concerns asymmetrically affect the choice to get new information about one’s abilities, and this asymmetry produces overconfidence (K?szegi, 2006; Weinberg, 2006). We test an important specific prediction of these models: individuals with a higher belief will be less likely to search for further information about their skill, because this information might make this belief worse. Our data also reject this prediction. The third theory is that overconfidence is induced by the desire to send positive signals to others about one’s own skill; this suggests either a bias in judgment, strategic lying, or both. We provide evidence that personality traits strongly affect relative ability judgments in a pattern that is consistent with this third theory. Our results together suggest that overconfidence in statements is most likely to be induced by social concerns than by either of the other two factors.

Suggested Citation

  • Burks, Stephen V. & Carpenter, Jeffrey P. & Götte, Lorenz & Rustichini, Aldo, 2010. "Overconfidence is a Social Signaling Bias," IZA Discussion Papers 4840, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4840
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    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Overconfidence Looks Good
      by Robin Hanson in Overcoming Bias on 2010-04-07 03:35:34

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    Cited by:

    1. Isabelle Vialle & Luis Santos-Pinto & Jean-Louis Rullière, 2011. "Self-Confidence and Teamwork : An Experimental Test," Working Papers 1126, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    2. Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2012. "An unlucky feeling: Overconfidence and noisy feedback," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 510-524.
    3. Ludwig, Sandra & Fellner-Röhling, Gerlinde & Thoma, Carmen, 2017. "Do women have more shame than men? An experiment on self-assessment and the shame of overestimating oneself," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 31-46.
    4. Jean‐Pierre Benoît & Juan Dubra, 2011. "Apparent Overconfidence," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(5), pages 1591-1625, September.
    5. Brice Corgnet & Roberto Hernán-González & Stephen Rassenti, 2011. "Real Effort, Real Leisure and Real-time Supervision: Incentives and Peer Pressure in Virtual Organizations," Working Papers 11-05, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    6. Jean-Pierre Benoît & Juan Dubra & Don A. Moore, 2015. "Does The Better-Than-Average Effect Show That People Are Overconfident?: Two Experiments," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 293-329, April.
    7. Mara Ewers & Florian Zimmermann, 2015. "Image And Misreporting," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 363-380, April.
    8. Hendrik van Broekhuizen & Dieter von Fintel, 2010. "Who Responds to Voluntary Cognitive Tests in Household Surveys? The Role of Labour Market Status, Respondent Confidence, Motivation and a Culture of Learning in South Africa," Working Papers 27/2010, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    9. Proto, Eugenio & Sgroi, Daniel, 2012. "Self Centred Beliefs: An Empircal Approach," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 75, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    10. Proto, Eugenio & Sgroi, Daniel, 2011. "False Consensus in Economic Agents," Economic Research Papers 270756, University of Warwick - Department of Economics.
    11. Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2012. "An unlucky feeling: Overconfidence and noisy feedback," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 510-524.
    12. Cueva, Carlos & Dessi, Roberta, 2012. "Charitable Giving, Self-Image and Personality," TSE Working Papers 12-342, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    13. Engelmann, Dirk & Strobel, Martin, 2012. "Deconstruction and reconstruction of an anomaly," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 678-689.
    14. Camelia M. Kuhnen & Agnieszka Tymula, 2012. "Feedback, Self-Esteem, and Performance in Organizations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(1), pages 94-113, January.
    15. Ewers, Mara, 2012. "Information and Competition Entry," IZA Discussion Papers 6411, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    numeracy; overconfidence; Bayesian updating; self-image; social signaling; field experiment; IQ; personality; MPQ;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments

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