Debiasing Overconfidence

Feiyi Wang

Funding Source


COL 2022


Professor of Psychology; Professor of Marketing

Project Summary

I am grateful to receive a Velay Fellowship to work with Dr. Barbara Mellers this summer on an exciting research project in the field of judgment and decision making. Our project is primarily focused on debiasing individual confidence. People are often overconfident in their skills and abilities, leading to erroneous judgments and bad decisions. Hence, our study has significant real-world implications, such as in the legal context and in governments.

Over the course of the summer, we conducted 3 large-scale studies using different techniques to reduce overconfidence. In our first study, we attempted to debias people by asking them to rate how uncertain they are in their estimate of a difficult question, instead of asking them how certain they are. We found that people are significantly less confident when they consider how uncertain they are compared to how certain they are in their judgments. In our second study, we incorporated several debiasing techniques implicated in previous studies into one study and tested the efficacy of these techniques. By asking people to consider how they could be wrong and providing them with baseline accuracy rates of other people, we demonstrated that confidence can be significantly reduced. In our third study, we examined how imagined goals in a group discussion setting would influence how confident people are in their estimates. Specifically, people were asked to imagine that they will go into a conversation with other people, and their primary goal is to either be very accurate, persuasive, or simply to get along with the group. We showed that when people aim to be persuasive in a subsequent group discussion, they are also significantly more confident compared to when they expect to be harmonious.

The results of our study are exciting, but I learned much more than running statistical analyses through this invaluable research experience. I was able to participate in weekly lab meetings and report my findings in front of an attentive and brilliant group of people. Inspiring ideas are constantly generated and discussed, oftentimes leading to the design of another great study. In particular, I am grateful to be able to work with Dr. Mellers, who is a leading scientist and renowned expert in the field of judgment and decision making. I have received so much support and learned so much from her insightful advice on all levels of research and thinking.

Undoubtedly, my undergraduate educational experience was greatly enriched by this program. I would encourage anyone who is interested to apply and gain an immersive experience over the summer!

I actually got "Velay Fellows" for summer 2021, but it's not listed above.

To see my poster, please visit Penn Presents: