Self Image in Objective Qualities

Publication Date:
Jan 2008
Project Programs:
Behavioral Economics

This paper tests whether individuals’ beliefs about objectively defined qualities are biased. I ran an experiment to find whether people possess biased self image when asked unambiguous questions over objective qualities. In particular, I describe data obtained by asking university students information on their transcripts. Students answered questions about the number of high and low grades they received and the number of classes they took in different departments. They were also asked to rank their own characteristics relative to others. I test which behavioral model of biased self image explain the data the best. I find subjects accurately report the information in their transcripts. Their relative assessments, however, are noisy. The lack of compelling evidence of systematic bias raises the question on existence of biased beliefs in objective qualities. On the other hand, I find strong evidence for people overestimating the proportion of the group with same qualities. Using within subject analysis, I can categorize individual level bias. At the 5% significance level, almost 60% of the subjects possess bias that can be explained by behavioral models of biased self image.


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