Overconfidence Can Be Transmitted From Person To Person

Posted on August 6, 2020

There will always be some people within a group who are more confident than others. But some groups as a whole tend towards modesty - as with the !Kung hunters of the Kalahari Desert, for example, who deliberately downplay their own achievements and efforts. However, the opposite can also occur - and widespread overconfidence can of course become a problem, as with the US energy company Enron, whose "culture of arrogance" ultimately led to its downfall.

These two examples are highlighted in a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, which reveals a route by which a bias towards overconfidence can develop. In their paper, Joey T Cheng at York University and colleagues first propose and then provide evidence for the idea that if we’re exposed to people who are overconfident, this rubs off on us. In other words, we calibrate our self-assessments based on the confidence level of those around us. Overconfidence can, then, be transmitted socially — and this could help to explain how groups, teams and organisations form their own, sometimes drastically different, confidence norms.

Further work revealed that these confidence effects can persist, still being evident several days later. Importantly, two of the studies produced evidence that the influence of overconfident peers on a participant’s own self-estimations happened largely outside their conscious awareness. As the team writes, if you’re unaware of such a “stealthy” transmission of bias, this could make it harder to resist.

Click on the link below to read the full article

Category(s):Self-Esteem, Workplace Issues

Source material from British Psychological Society