The Quality of Expertise

34 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2013 Last revised: 29 May 2015

See all articles by Edward Dickersin Van Wesep

Edward Dickersin Van Wesep

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Finance

Date Written: May 28, 2015


Policy-makers and managers often turn to experts when in need of information: because they are more informed than others of the content and quality of current and past research, they should provide the best advice. I show, however, that we should expect experts to be systematically biased, potentially to the point that they are less reliable sources of information than non-experts. This is because the decision to research a question implies a belief that research will be fruitful. If priors about the impact of current work are correct, on average, then those who select into researching a question are optimistic about the quality of current work. In areas that are new, or feature new research technologies (e.g., data sources, technical methods, or paradigms), the selection problem is less important than the benefit of greater knowledge: experts will indeed be experts. In areas that are old and lack new research technologies, there will be significant bias. Furthermore, consistent with a large body of empirical research, this selection problem implies that experts who express greater confidence in their beliefs will be, on average, less accurate. This paper provides many empirical implications for expert accuracy, as well as mechanism design implications for hiring, task assignment, and referee assignment.

Keywords: Expertise, Behavioral Economics, Prediction

JEL Classification: D80, J44

Suggested Citation

Van Wesep, Edward Dickersin, The Quality of Expertise (May 28, 2015). Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management Research Paper No. 2257995, Available at SSRN: or

Edward Dickersin Van Wesep (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Finance ( email )

Campus Box 419
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

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