Seminar 218, Psychology and Economics: Overconfidence and Prejudice

Seminar | September 24 | 2-3:30 p.m. | 648 Evans Hall

 Botond Koszegi, Central European University

 Department of Economics

Link to Working Paper

ABSTRACT: We explore conclusions a person draws from observing society when he allows for the possibility that individuals’ outcomes are affected by group-level discrimination. Injecting a single non-classical assumption, that the agent is overconfident about himself, we explain key observed patterns in social beliefs, and make a number of additional predictions. First, the agent believes in discrimination against any group he is in more than an outsider does, capturing widely observed self-centered views of discrimination. Second, the more group memberships the agent shares with an individual, the more positively he evaluates the individual. This explains one of the most basic facts about social judgments, in-group bias, as well as "legitimizing myths" that justify an arbitrary social hierarchy through the perceived superiority of the privileged group. Third, biases are sensitive to how the agent divides society into groups when evaluating outcomes. This provides a reason why some ethnically charged questions should not be asked, as well as a potential channel for why nation-building policies might be effective. Fourth, giving the agent more accurate information about himself increases all his biases. Fifth, the agent is prone to substitute biases, implying that the introduction of a new outsider group to focus on creates biases against the new group but lowers biases vis a vis other groups. Sixth, there is a tendency for the agent to agree more with those in the same groups. As a microfoundation for our model, we provide an explanation for why an overconfident agent might allow for potential discrimination in evaluating outcomes, even when he initially did not conceive of this possibility.

 pcjones@berkeley.edu