"A good man always knows his limitations": the role of overconfidence in criminal offending

Thomas A. Loughran, Raymond Paternoster, Alex R. Piquero, Jeffrey Fagan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: This study examines the prevalence of overconfidence in the perceivedtrisk of committing crime and whether such overconfidence is related to criminal behavior. Methods: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: We 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-358
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • deterrence
  • offending
  • overconfidence
  • risk p.

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