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Managing Self-Confidence: Theory and Experimental Evidence

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  • Markus M. Mobius
  • Muriel Niederle
  • Paul Niehaus
  • Tanya S. Rosenblat

Abstract

Evidence from social psychology suggests that agents process information about their own ability in a biased manner. This evidence has motivated exciting research in behavioral economics, but has also garnered critics who point out that it is potentially consistent with standard Bayesian updating. We implement a direct experimental test. We study a large sample of 656 undergraduate students, tracking the evolution of their beliefs about their own relative performance on an IQ test as they receive noisy feedback from a known data-generating process. Our design lets us repeatedly measure the complete relevant belief distribution incentive-compatibly. We find that subjects (1) place approximately full weight on their priors, but (2) are asymmetric, over-weighting positive feedback relative to negative, and (3) conservative, updating too little in response to both positive and negative signals. These biases are substantially less pronounced in a placebo experiment where ego is not at stake. We also find that (4) a substantial portion of subjects are averse to receiving information about their ability, and that (5) less confident subjects are causally more likely to be averse. We unify these phenomena by showing that they all arise naturally in a simple model of optimally biased Bayesian information processing.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus M. Mobius & Muriel Niederle & Paul Niehaus & Tanya S. Rosenblat, 2011. "Managing Self-Confidence: Theory and Experimental Evidence," NBER Working Papers 17014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17014 Note: LS
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Beugnot, Julie & Fortin, Bernard & Lacroix, Guy & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2017. "Gender and Peer Effects in Social Networks," IZA Discussion Papers 10588, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    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. Julie Beugnot & Bernard Fortin & Guy Lacroix & Marie Claire Villeval, 2013. "Social Networks and Peer Effects at Work," Cahiers de recherche 1320, CIRPEE.
    4. Grossman, Zachary & Owens, David, 2012. "An unlucky feeling: Overconfidence and noisy feedback," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 510-524.
    5. Grossman, Zachary & van der Weele, Joël, 2013. "Self-Image and Strategic Ignorance in Moral Dilemmas," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0bp6z29t, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
    6. Banerjee, Ritwik & Gupta, Nabanita Datta & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2018. "The spillover effects of affirmative action on competitiveness and unethical behavior," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 567-604.
    7. Chen, Daniel L., 2016. "Priming Ideology: Why Presidential Elections Affect U.S. Judges," TSE Working Papers 16-681, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised Aug 2016.
    8. repec:eee:jeborg:v:138:y:2017:i:c:p:10-29 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Cheung, Stephen L. & Johnstone, Lachlan, 2017. "True Overconfidence, Revealed through Actions: An Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 10545, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Meeran, Sheik & Goodwin, Paul & Yalabik, Baris, 2016. "A parsimonious explanation of observed biases when forecasting one’s own performance," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 112-120.
    11. Julie Beugnot & Bernard Fortin & Guy Lacroix & Marie Claire Villeval, 2013. "Social Networks and Peer Effects at Work," Cahiers de recherche 1320, CIRPEE.
    12. Albrecht, Konstanze & von Essen, Emma & Parys, Juliane & Szech, Nora, 2013. "Updating, self-confidence, and discrimination," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 144-169.
    13. Yang, Fanzheng & Yu, Li, 2016. "With or without siblings: Sorting into competition in the experimental labor market," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 284-298.
    14. Yang, Fanzheng, 2013. "Using laboratory experiments to study otherwise unobservable labor market interactions," ISU General Staff Papers 201301010800004100, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    15. Julie Beugnot & Bernard Fortin & Guy Lacroix & Marie Claire Villeval, 2017. "Gender and Peer Effects on Performance in Social Networks," Working Papers 1711, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    16. 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.
    17. Hammitt, James K. & Rheinberger, Christoph, 2015. "Dinner with Bayes: On the Revision of Risk Beliefs," TSE Working Papers 15-574, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    18. Banerjee, Ritwik & Gupta, Nabanita Datta & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2018. "The spillover effects of affirmative action on competitiveness and unethical behavior," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 567-604.
    19. Thomas Buser, 2016. "How does the Gender Difference in Willingness to Compete evolve with Experience?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-017/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    20. Tomas Miklanek, 2017. "Ego-utility and Endogenous Information Acquisition; An Experimental Study," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp582, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    21. Beugnot, Julie & Fortin, Bernard & Lacroix, Guy & Villeval, Marie Claire, 2013. "Social Networks and Peer Effects at Work," IZA Discussion Papers 7521, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    22. Ertac, Seda & Koçkesen, Levent & Ozdemir, Duygu, 2016. "The role of verifiability and privacy in the strategic provision of performance feedback: Theory and experimental evidence," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 24-45.
    23. Thomas Buser & Huaiping Yuan, 2016. "Do Women give up Competing more easily? Evidence from the Lab and the Dutch Math Olympiad," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-096/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    24. Julie Beugnot & Bernard Fortin & Guy Lacroix & Marie Claire Villeval, 2013. "Social Networks and Peer Effects at Work," Cahiers de recherche 1320, CIRPEE.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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