Do you reward those who are the most overconfident?

Research findings on self-deception

It can be annoying to know that those people who are overconfident in their own abilities are considered to be more talented by others than they really are! This is what a 2014 study found out about overconfident people.

Overconfident people are more likely to get promoted, to become the leaders of organisations and even nations. Saying that, what about those people who are not so confident in their abilities? Unfortunately, they are judged as less competent than they actually are.

These findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, provide evidence for a controversial theory of the evolution of self-deception (Lamba & Nityananda, 2014).

Being better at deceiving yourself makes you better at deceiving others, some have argued, and this study provides evidence for the theory.

Dr. Vivek Nityananda, who co-authored the study, explained:

“These findings suggest that people don’t always reward the most accomplished individual but rather the most self-deceived. We think this supports an evolutionary theory of self-deception. It can be beneficial to have others believe you are better than you are and the best way to do this is to deceive yourself — which might be what we have evolved to do.”

In the research itself, students were asked to rate their own abilities and those of their peers.

In comparison to their actual final marks on the course, almost half were over-confident (40%), just under half were under-confident (45%), and the rest were accurate in judging their own abilities.

When rating each other, though, those who were over-confident received higher ratings from their peers.

Meanwhile those who were under-confident received lower ratings from their peers.

What was compelling were the results, they were just as true at the start of the course when the students hardly knew each other as they were after six weeks when the students knew each other better.

The study shows how belief in your own abilities doesn’t just affect you but also those around you, who also pick up on your levels of self-belief very quickly.

The authors conclude that…

“…[since] overconfident individuals are more likely to be risk-prone, then by promoting such individuals we may be creating institutions such as banks, trading floors and armies, that are also more vulnerable to risk. From our smallest interactions to the institutions we build, self-deception may play a profound role in shaping the world we inhabit.” (Lamba & Nityananda, 2014).

How change you be sure of someone’s ability?

While it’s great to be confident about your abilities, you need to know you are actually confident in what you know.  This also goes for how you view other people’s abilities.

Ideally you want to work with people who are certain they know what they are talking about and have the ability to perform well.  Conversely, you don’t really want to be working with someone who is overconfident about their abilities, even though you might feel they know what they are talking about, even if they don’t know it themselves.

So how do you overcome this shortfall in measuring someone’s abilities?

Traditional methods don’t really stand up here, never does your perception of someone’s ability.  So Brain Candy has done some research and come up with the best way to find out your people’s abilities by seeing how confident they are about what you should know.

Your self-belief might be high, that could be for certain, but what we are interested in is how certain people are about knowing the right information.

So when it comes to finding how capable people are, and being certain about it, Brain Candy can cut through the BS and see what you and others actually know for certain.  How sweet would that be!