Professor Ernesto Reuben of Columbia University and colleagues asked MBA students to complete a set of math problems. Both men and women performed about the same, but one year later, the researchers brought back the same students, asking them to recall their previous year's performance.
The researchers found when they compared actual performance with recalled performance, most participants overestimated their performance.
The study, appearing in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization and Columbia Business School's Ideas at Work, found the major difference was men consistently rated their past performance about 30 percent higher than it really was while women consistently rated their past performance only about 15 percent higher.
In another experiment, the researchers found, on average, both men and women were willing to lie about their performance, but when participants had an incentive to lie, they lied more, and the incidence of lying increased as the monetary award for being chosen as leader increased.
Although women kept pace with men on how frequently they lied, women did not exaggerate their performance to the same degree. As a result, women were selected one-third less often than their abilities would otherwise indicate.