Can conjugate prior probability explain the illusion of control?

Marcin Czupryna, Elżbieta Kubińska, Łukasz Markiewicz


In this paper, we consider the illusion of control by using Bayesian updating as the rationality model. Our paper contributes twofold. First, we empirically verify that the illusion of control may have two concurrent sources, “emotional” and “rational”. The fi rst one produces biased Bayesian processing due to emotional engagement and the second one yields biases due to prior assumptions on the level of control. Second, we propose a method for identifying these two sources. Moreover we verifi ed two hypotheses H1: The emotional factor causes overestimation of the actual level of control. and H2: The rational factor is responsible for the reverse relationship between observed levels of the illusion of control in three separate situations, when subjects have significant control, moderate or no control. Only the hypothesis H2 received partial empirical support.

Słowa kluczowe

overconfidence; illusion of control; emotional and rational model; Bayesian updating; conjugate prior probability.

Pełny tekst / Download full text:

PDF (English)


Alloy, L.B., & Abramson, L.Y. (1979). Judgment of contingency in depressed and nondepressed students: Sadder but wiser? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 108, 441-485. doi:


Bar-Hillel, M. (1980). The base-rate fallacy in probability judgments. Acta Psychologica, 44, 211233. doi:10.1016/0001-6918(80)90046-3

Burson, K.A., Larrick, R.P., & Klayman, J. (2006). Skilled or unskilled, but still unaware of it: how perceptions of diffi culty drive miscalibration in relative comparisons. Journal of personality and social psychology, 90(1), 60.

Colonius, H. (2016). An invitation to coupling and copulas: with applications to multisensory modeling. Submitted to Journal of Mathematical Psychology, Special issue in honor of R.D. Luce,

Cox, J.C., Ross, S.A., & Rubinstein, M. (1979). Option pricing: A simplifi ed approach. Journal of Financial Economics, 7(3), 229. doi:10.1016/0304-405X(79)90015-1.

Dunn, D.S., & Wilson, T.D. (1990). When the stakes are high: A limit to the Illusion-of-Control Effect. Social Cognition, 8(3), 305-323.

Edwards, W. (1982). Conservatism in human information processing. In: D. Kahneman, P. Slovic & A. Tversky (Eds.), Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases (pp. 359-369). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Evans, J., & Stanovich, K.E. (2013). Dual-process theories of higher cognition: Advancing the debate. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 223-241. doi: 10.1177/1745691612460685.

Fenton-O’Creevy, M., Nicholson, N., Soane, E., & Willman, P. (2003). Trading on illusions: Unrealistic perceptions of control and trading performance. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 76, 53-68.

Gino, F., Sharek, Z., & Moore, D.A. (2011). Keeping the illusion of control under control: Ceilings, fl oors, and imperfect calibration. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 114, 104-114.

Glaser, M., & Weber, M. (2007). Overconfi dence and trading volume. The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, 32(1), 1-36.

Griffi n, D., & Brenner, L. (2004). Perspectives on probability judgment calibration. Blackwell handbook of judgment and decision making, 177-199.

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47, 263-291.

Kahneman, D., Slovic, P., & Tversky, A. (1982). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Langer, E.J. (1975). The illusion of control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32(2), 311-328.

Langfelder, P., & Horvath, S. (2008). WGCNA: an R package for weighted correlation network analysis. BMC bioinformatics, 9(1), 559.

Larrick, R.P., Burson, K.A., & Soll, J.B. (2007). Social comparison and confi dence: When thinking you’re better than average predicts overconfi dence (and when it does not). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 102(1), 76-94.

Luo, M. (2004). For exercise in New York futility, push button. New York Times, February 27.

Moore, D.A., & Healy, P.J. (2008). The trouble with overconfi dence. Psychological Review, 115, 502-517.

Murphy, A.H., & Winkler, R.L. (1984). Probability forecasting in meteorology. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 79, 489-500.

McCausland, W.J., & Marley, A.J. (2013). Prior distributions for random choice structures. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 57(3-4), 78-93.

Osman, M. (2004). An evaluation of dual-process theories of reasoning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11, 988-1010. doi: 10.3758/BF03196730.

Presson, P.K., & Benassi, V.A. (1996). Illusion of control: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 11(3), 493.

Raiffa, H., & Schlaifer, R. (1961). Applied statistical decision theory. Division of Research, Graduate School of Business Administration, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

R Core Team. (2016). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL

Scheibehenne, B., & Studer, B. (2014). A hierarchical Bayesian model of the infl uence of run length on sequential predictions. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 21(1), 211-217.

Thompson, W.C., & Schumann, E.L. (1987). Interpretation of statistical evidence in criminal trials: The prosecutor’s fallacy and the defense attorney’s fallacy. Law and Human Behavior, 11, 167187. doi: 10.1007/BF01044641.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124-1130. DOI: 10.1126/science.185.4157.1124.

Turner, B.M., & Van Zandt, T. (2012), A tutorial on approximate Bayesian computation. Journal of Mathematical Psychology, 56 (2), 69-85.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

This journal provides immediate open access to its content under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license: Authors who publish with this journal retain all copyrights and agree to the terms of the above-mentioned CC BY 4.0 license.