Date of Original Version

5-2007

Type

Working Paper

Rights Management

All Rights Reserved

Abstract or Description

This paper presents a reconciliation of the three distinct ways in which the research literature has defined overconfidence: (1) overestimation of one’s actual performance, (2) overplacement of one’s performance relative to others, and (3) excessive precision in one’s beliefs. Experimental evidence shows that reversals of the first two (apparent underconfidence), when they occur, tend to be on different types of tasks. On difficult tasks, people overestimate their actual performances but also believe that they are worse than others; on easy tasks, people underestimate their actual performances but believe they are better than others. This paper offers a straightforward theory that can explain these inconsistencies. Overprecision appears to be more persistent than either of the other two types of overconfidence, but its presence reduces the magnitude of both overestimation and overplacement.

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