Men are delusional

Ok, this title is stating the obvious. But it never ceases to surprise me how delusional men really are.

About 20 years ago, Brad Barber and Terrence Odean published their wonderful study titled Boys will be Boys where they showed that amongst retail investors, men tend to be more confident in their ability to pick stocks than women. This overconfidence manifests itself in higher portfolio turnover for men vs. women. And since higher turnover leads to higher transaction costs, the net performance after fees of men suffered more and they underperformed women. Nothing new here, except that most people don’t know that there are also differences in marital status. Married men tend to do better than single men and I suspect this is just another way how wives have a beneficial influence on their spouses – though the empirical evidence shows clearly that men should just let their wives manage their investments anyway.

Turnover and net performance of men and women

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Source: Barber and Odean (2001).

In general, research on overconfidence has shown that we are sometimes overconfident and sometimes underconfident (i.e. we think we are worse than we really are). Whenever we are asked about our ability to do something that reflects positively on our character and values, we tend to be overconfident. If we are asked to judge our skills in tasks that are not related to our character we tend to be underconfident. 

For example, 90% of people think they are better than average at driving and 75% think they are better than average at using a computer, but only 32% of people think they are better than average at knitting a sweater.

What’s more, even if we are worse than average, we still think we were better than average when we try to remember past actions. A recent study published in Nature showed that people who acted selfishly in a lab experiment later misremembered their actions and thought they acted less selfishly than they really did. Other participants who did not act selfishly did not misremember their past actions. In other words, selfish a-holes remain selfish a-holes because they think they behaved just fine.

But the differences in misremembering past actions again seem to be different between men and women. The selfishness study did not report gender differences, but a recent survey of parents with children below the age of 12 sheds some light on this effect. Asked who in their household spent more time home-schooling their children during the recent lockdown showed that 45% of men thought they did, but only 3% of women agreed.

Who spent more time home-schooling their children?

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Source: New York Times.

Somebody should do a survey asking men and women if they think whether they or their spouse is a better lover…

As one of those rare males who are not overconfident at all but simply realistic about his abilities, I cannot understand why other men think they are that good when they clearly aren’t 😜

How men see themselves

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