Overconfidence in Probability Distributions: People Know They Don’t Know but They Don’t Know What to Do About It
Management Science, Forthcoming
69 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2019 Last revised: 27 Nov 2023
Date Written: November 17, 2023
Overconfidence is pervasive in subjective probability distributions (SPDs). We develop new methods to analyze judgments that entail both epistemic and aleatory uncertainty. In four experiments we examine the extent to which subjective probability mass is concentrated in a small portion of the distribution versus spread across all possible outcomes. We find that although SPDs roughly match the concentration of the empirical, aleatory distributions, people’s judgments are consistently overconfident because they fail to spread out probability mass to account for their own epistemic uncertainty about the location and shape of the distribution. Although people are aware of this lack of knowledge, they do not appropriately incorporate it into their SPDs. Our results offer new insights into the causes of overconfidence and shed light on potential ways to address this fundamental bias.
Keywords: Overconfidence, Subjective Probability Distributions, Epistemic Uncertainty, Aleatory Uncertainty, Judgment Elicitation, Calibration
JEL Classification: D83, C53, C91
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation