Posts Tagged Overconfidence

Overconfidence Drives Social Status, Even When Unfounded


Overconfidence Drives Social Status, Even When UnfoundedBelieving that you are cool, hip, talented, clever, and better than most, may lead to admiration and prestige, and, unfortunately, detrimental consequences.

In a new study, scientists came to the conclusion that individuals develop a cocky self-perception as a means to enhance social status.

Researchers have long known that many people are frequently overconfident — that they tend to believe they are more physically talented, socially adept, and skilled at their job than they actually are.

Investigators also say that overconfidence can often have a detrimental effect on an individual’s performance and decision-making.

Still the allure of social status promotes overconfidence, said Cameron Anderson, Ph.D.,  a co-author of the study, to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Our studies found that overconfidence helped people attain social status. People who believed they were better than others, even when they weren’t, were given a higher place in the social ladder. And the motive to attain higher social status thus spurred overconfidence,” said Anderson.

Experts say that social status is the respect, prominence, and influence individuals enjoy in the eyes of others.

Within work groups, for example, higher status individuals tend to be more admired, listened to, and have more sway over the group’s discussions and decisions.

Researchers say these “alphas” of the group have more clout and prestige than other members. Anderson believes the new findings are important because they help shed light on a longstanding puzzle: why overconfidence is so common, in spite of its risks.

In the study Anderson found that falsely believing one is better than others has profound social benefits for the individual. Moreover, these findings suggest one reason why in organizational settings, incompetent people are so often promoted over their more competent peers.

“In organizations, people are very easily swayed by others’ confidence even when that confidence is unjustified,” Anderson said. “Displays of confidence are given an inordinate amount of weight.”

In fact, the researchers say that organizations would benefit from taking individuals’ confidence with a grain of salt. Yes, confidence can be a sign of a person’s actual abilities, but it is often not a very good sign.

In the study, the authors conducted six experiments to measure why people become overconfident and how overconfidence equates to a rise in social stature. For example:

In one of the experiments, researchers examined 242 MBA students in their project teams and asked them to look over a list of historical names, historical events, and books and poems, and then to identify which ones they knew or recognized.

Terms included Maximilien Robespierre, Lusitania, Wounded Knee, Pygmalion, and Doctor Faustus. Unbeknownst to the participants, some of the names were made up.

These so-called “foils” included Bonnie Prince Lorenzo, Queen Shaddock, Galileo Lovano, Murphy’s Last Ride, and Windemere Wild. The researchers deemed those who picked the most foils the most overly confident because they believed they were more knowledgeable than they actually were.

In a survey at the end of the semester, those same overly confident individuals (who said they had recognized the most foils) achieved the highest social status within their groups.

It is important to note that group members did not think of their high status peers as overconfident, but simply that they were terrific.

“This overconfidence did not come across as narcissistic,” said Anderson. “The most overconfident people were considered the most beloved.”

Another experiment sought to discover the types of behaviors that make overconfident people appear to be so wonderful (even when they were not).

Behaviors such as body language, vocal tone, rates of participation were captured on video as groups worked together in a laboratory setting.

These videos revealed that overconfident individuals spoke more often, spoke with a confident vocal tone, provided more information and answers, and acted calmly and relaxed as they worked with their peers. In fact, overconfident individuals were more convincing in their displays of ability than individuals who were actually highly competent.

“These big participators were not obnoxious, they didn’t say, ‘I’m really good at this.’ Instead, their behavior was much more subtle. They simply participated more and exhibited more comfort with the task – even though they were no more competent than anyone else,” Anderson said.

Two final studies found that it is the “desire” for status that encourages people to be more overconfident.

For example, in Study 6, participants read one of two stories and were asked to imagine themselves as the protagonist in the story. The first story was a simple, bland narrative of losing then finding one’s keys.

The second story asked the reader to imagine him/herself getting a new job with a prestigious company. The job had many opportunities to obtain higher status, including a promotion, a bonus, and a fast track to the top. Those participants who read the new job scenario rated their desire for status much higher than those who read the story of the lost keys.

After they were finished reading, participants were asked to rate themselves on a number of competencies such as critical thinking skills, intelligence, and the ability to work in teams.

Those who had read the new job story (which stimulated their desire for status) rated their skills and talent much higher than did the first group. Their desire for status amplified their overconfidence.

So, if overconfidence is a natural tendency for some, how can individuals recognize that this may be a potential flaw rather than an asset?

Anderson and other members of the research team believe their study will give people the incentive to look for more objective displays of ability and merit in others, instead of overvaluing unsubstantiated confidence.

Source: University of California – Berkeley Haas School of Business

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Multi-Tasking Competence Varies with Tasks, Often Over-estimated


Multi-Tasking Competence Varies with Tasks, Often Over-estimatedMost have heard the warnings that multi-tasking is inefficient, ineffective and may be dangerous, then go ahead and do it anyway.

A new study qualifies the general disclaimers that some types of multi-tasking are more dangerous than others.

For example, trying to do two visual tasks at once hurt performance in both tasks significantly more than combining a visual and an audio task, the research found.

Researchers also discovered that people who tried to do two visual tasks at the same time rated their performance as better than did those who combined a visual and an audio task — even though their actual performance was worse.

“Many people have this overconfidence in how well they can multitask, and our study shows that this particularly is the case when they combine two visual tasks,” said Zheng Wang, lead author of the study.

“People’s perception about how well they’re doing doesn’t match up with how they actually perform.”

The study appears in a recent issue of the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Researchers used eye-tracking technology to show that people’s gaze moved around much more when they had two visual tasks compared to a visual and an audio task. Additionally, they spent much less time fixated on any one task.

That suggests distracted visual attention, Wang said.

In the study, participants who were performing two visual tasks were asked to complete a pattern-matching puzzle on a computer screen while giving walking directions to another person using instant messaging (IM) software.

Those who combined a visual and an audio task tried to complete the same pattern-matching task on the screen while giving voice directions using audio chat.

The two multitasking scenarios used in this study can be compared to those drivers may face, Wang said.

People who try to text while they are driving are combining two mostly visual tasks, she said. People who talk on a phone while driving are combining a visual and an audio task.

“They’re both dangerous, but as both our behavioral performance data and eyetracking data suggest, texting is more dangerous to do while driving than talking on a phone, which is not a surprise,” Wang said.

“But what is surprising is that our results also suggest that people may perceive that texting is not more dangerous – they may think they can do a good job at two visual tasks at one time.”

In the study 32 college students sat at computer screens and were asked to complete a matching task in which they saw two grids on the screen, each with nine cells containing random letters or numbers.

They had to determine, as quickly as possible, whether the two grids were a “match” or “mismatch” by clicking a button on the screen. They were told to complete as many trials as possible within two minutes.

After testing the participants on the matching task with no distractions, the researchers had the students repeat the matching task while giving walking directions to a fellow college student, “Jennifer,” who they were told needed to get to an important job interview.

Participants had to help “Jennifer” get to her interview within six minutes. In fact, “Jennifer” was a trained confederate experimenter. She has been trained to interact with participants in a realistic but scripted way to ensure the direction task was kept as similar as possible across all participants.

For this part of the task, half of the participants used instant messaging software (Google Chat) to type directions while the other half used voice chat (Google Talk with headphones and an attached microphone) to help “Jennifer” reach her destination.

Results showed that multitasking, of any kind, seriously hurt performance.

Researchers found that in the group that gave audio directions performance in visual pattern-matching dropped by 30 percent drop in visual pattern-matching performance.

Participants who used instant messaging did even worse — they had a 50 percent drop in pattern-matching performance.

Interestingly, although those who gave audio directions completed more steps in the directions task than did those who used IM, when asked to rate themselves, those that gave IM gave themselves higher ratings that those who used audio chat.

“They’re both dangerous, but as both our behavioral performance data and eyetracking data suggest, texting is more dangerous to do while driving than talking on a phone.”

“It may be that those using IM felt more in control because they could respond when they wanted without being hurried by a voice in their ears,” Wang said.

“Also, processing several streams of information in the visual channel may give people the illusion of efficiency. They may perceive visual tasks as relatively effortless, which may explain the tendency to combine tasks like driving and texting.”

Eye-tracking results from the study showed that people paid much less attention to the matching task when they were multitasking, Wang said. As expected, the results were worse for those who used IM than for those who used voice chat.

Overall, the percentage of eye fixations on the matching-task grids declined from 76 percent when that was the participants’ only task to 33 percent during multitasking.

Fixations on the grid task decreased by 53 percent for those using IM and a comparatively better 35 percent for those who used voice chat.

“When people are using IM, their visual attention is split much more than when they use voice chat,” she said.

These results suggest we need to teach media and multitasking literacy to young people before they start driving, Wang said.

“Our results suggest many people may believe they can effectively text and drive at the same time, and we need to make sure young people know that is not true.”

In addition, the findings show that technology companies need to be aware of how people respond to multitasking when they are designing products.

For example, these results suggest GPS voice guidance should be preferred over image guidance because people are more effective when they combine visual with aural tasks compared to two visual tasks.

“We need to design media environments that emphasize processing efficiency and activity safety. We can take advantage of the fact that we do better when we can use visual and audio components rather than two visual components,” Wang said.

Source: Ohio State University

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