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Overconfidence Barrier

 

Explanations > Theories > Overconfidence Barrier

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

We tend to have too much confidence in the accuracy of our own judgments. As we find out more about a situation, the accuracy of our judgments may well not increase, but our confidence will, as we equate quantity with quality. Confidence also tends to increase if we are given incentives to perform well.

Overconfidence is greatest when accuracy is near chance levels, and reduces as accuracy increases from 50% to 80%. Once accuracy exceeds 80%, people become under-confident.

Related to this, in what has been called the 'God Complex', we tend to believe that we know the answer to complicated problems. This can be seen in daily gossip where individuals confidently propose solutions to world issues.

Research

Fischhoff, Slovic and Lichtenstein (1977) gave subjects a general knowledge test and then asked them how sure they were of their answer. Subjects reported being 100% sure when they were actually only 70%-80% correct.

Example

Teachers sometimes decide that some individuals and groups are more intelligent than others. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So what?

Using it

Ask the other person something they don’t know about. Then use their over-confidence. Or take something they know and lever the seeds of doubt as to the absolute accuracy.

Defending

When making a judgment, stop to consider the reasons why you may be wrong. Practice this. Before long, you confidence will more closely match the accuracy of your decisions.

See also

Selective Perception, Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, Personal Validation Fallacy, Valence Effect

References

Fischhoff, Slovic and Lichtenstein (1977), Lichtenstein and Fischhoff (1977)

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