Document Type

Working Paper

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Traditional criminological research in the area of rational choice and crime decisions places a strong emphasis on offenders’ perceptions of risk associated with various crimes. Yet, this literature has thus far generally neglected the role of individual overconfidence in both the formation of subjective risk perceptions and the association between risk and crime. In other types of high risk behaviors which serve as analogs to crime, including stock trading and uncertain business and investment decisions, overconfidence is shown to have a stimulating effect on an individuals’ willingness to engage in these behaviors. Using data from two separate samples, this paper explores the prevalence of overconfidence in offending risk perceptions for a variety of crime types, and, in one sample serious offending juveniles, attempts to link overconfidence to a higher likelihood of offending. Our results show that overconfidence is both highly prevalent in risk perceptions across samples, and it is highly associated with higher rates of offending, even when controlling for risk. We also outline several theoretical issues for future research on this topic, including its relationship to self-serving bias and Bayesian updating.

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Criminal Law Commons