An interesting thought contained in a mostly uninteresting research paper.
Many economic decisions, such as whether to invest in developing new skills, change professions, or purchase a new technology, benefit from accurate estimation of skill acquisition. We examine the accuracy of such predictions by having experimental participants predict the speed at which they will master an unfamiliar task. The first experiment finds systematic underestimation of learning, even after multiple rounds of performance feedback. Replicating earlier findings by psychologists, we observe an abrupt drop in confidence, from overconfidence to underconfidence, following initial task experience. The second experiment shows that underpredicting learning leads decision makers to make choices that lower average payoffs.
It’s all Game Theory and online experiments, so the result is dubious. But the measurement itself is interesting. After 16 years of purely memorized learning, with very little exposure to real life, we don’t have an accurate feel for the difficulty of real life. We may tend to see it as easy because our teachers and textbooks have been telling us that real life is trivial and not worth learning. I’m not sure if the one-way bias is universal.
Thinking back on my first real job, picking up skills from coworkers, I’m sure that I underestimated some parts of the job and overestimated others.
In a culture where everything is picked up by experience from parents and employers, starting at age 7, prediction of a new task is likely to be accurate.