Corner Office
A survey published Monday by Bank of America Merrill Lynch found a majority believe the U.S. economy will fare worse off next year, yet only 7 percent believe this will force them to lay people off Creative Commons

Sixty-two percent of chief financial executives for American companies believe the United States economy will contract in 2012, yet only 7 percent believe they'll have to lay off people at their company during the period, a report published by Bank of America Merrill Lynch (NYSE:BAC) Monday has found.

The report, based on a survey of 600 chief finance officers at medium and large companies, also found more than half those surveyed expected to grow company revenues next year, and 41 percent believed that revenue growth will translate into higher profit margins.

The study also found that, while 76 percent of executives believed they'd be able to maintain research and development budgets, a drop of only 1 percent from last year, the amount of resources dedicated to mergers and acquisitions is expected to drop dramatically. Only 18 percent of executives expect to participate in a merger or acquisition next year, down sharply from 26 percent last year.

It is not clear why such a high percentage of executives believe they will be able to hold or expand payrolls and keep putting money into research, while also believing the economy will tank.

While full details of the survey will be forthcoming in February, it is likely the results are a result of what statisticians call the Lake Wobegon effect in surveys, which refers to a person's sense of superiority over one's peer group.

Surveys that ask individuals to assess their own capabilities as compared to the average, or from predictions related to their personal future, as opposed to that of wider societal groups, commonly find a huge majority of survey participants tend to think of themselves as more skillful or lucky than what is ordinary.