'A Good Man Always Knows His Limitations': Overconfidence in Criminal Offending

45 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2011 Last revised: 11 Mar 2011

See all articles by Thomas Loughran

Thomas Loughran

University of Maryland

Ray Paternoster

University of Maryland - Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice

Alex R. Piquero

University of Texas at Dallas - School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences; Griffith University

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School

Date Written: February 27, 2011

Abstract

Traditional criminological research in the area of rational choice and crime decisions places a strong emphasis on offenders’ perceptions of risk associated with various crimes. Yet, this literature has thus far generally neglected the role of individual overconfidence in both the formation of subjective risk perceptions and the association between risk and crime. In other types of high risk behaviors which serve as analogs to crime, including stock trading and uncertain business and investment decisions, overconfidence is shown to have a stimulating effect on an individuals’ willingness to engage in these behaviors. Using data from two separate samples, this paper explores the prevalence of overconfidence in offending risk perceptions for a variety of crime types, and, in one sample serious offending juveniles, attempts to link overconfidence to a higher likelihood of offending. Our results show that overconfidence is both highly prevalent in risk perceptions across samples, and it is highly associated with higher rates of offending, even when controlling for risk. We also outline several theoretical issues for future research on this topic, including its relationship to self-serving bias and Bayesian updating.

Keywords: Deterrence, Risk, Crime

JEL Classification: K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Loughran, Thomas and Paternoster, Ray and Piquero, Alex R. and Fagan, Jeffrey, 'A Good Man Always Knows His Limitations': Overconfidence in Criminal Offending (February 27, 2011). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 11-264, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1772185 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1772185

Thomas Loughran (Contact Author)

University of Maryland ( email )

2220 LeFrak Hall
College Park, MD 20742
United States

Ray Paternoster

University of Maryland - Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice ( email )

2129 LeFrak Hall
College Park, MD 20742
United States
301-405-4724 (Phone)
301-405-4733 (Fax)

Alex R. Piquero

University of Texas at Dallas - School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences ( email )

800 W. Campbell Road, GR31
Richardson, TX 75080
United States
972-883-2482 (Phone)
972-883-6572 (Fax)

Griffith University

170 Kessels Road
Nathan, Queensland QLD 4111
Australia

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2624 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Jeffrey_Fagan

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