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"A Good Man Always Knows His Limitations": The Role of Overconfidence in Criminal Offending

NCJ Number
Date Published
Thomas A. Loughran, Raymond Paternoster, Alex R. Piquero, Jeffrey Fagan
This study examines the prevalence of overconfidence in the perceived risk of committing crime and whether such overconfidence is related to criminal behavior.
Two samples were used—a sample of high school students who committed minor offenses and a sample of serious juvenile offenders most with felony arrests. Overconfidence in risk was estimated as the difference between the perceived risk of arrest for one’s self and for a generalized other. The proportion of over- and underconfident persons were estimated in both samples, while pooled and random effects logit models were used to estimate the effect of risk on both self-reported offending and arrest within the sample of serious offenders. A large proportion of youth were found to be overconfident with respect to their perceived risk, with a higher prevalence in the conventional high school sample. Within the sample of serious juvenile offenders, being overconfident about one’s own risk was found to be related to both self-reported offending and arrest, net of a base rate measure of others’ risk. The authors outline a theory of the relationship between overconfidence and crime that links overconfidence with a self-attribution bias and biased updating of perceived risk with new information. Abstract published by arrangement with Sage Journals.
Date Created: June 3, 2014