Those Who Are Overconfident Convince Others They Are More Competent

(p. B6) What is it about an elite upbringing that seems to make people feel qualified for tasks where they have little experience? This is one of the questions that inspired a study published Monday in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The researchers suggest that part of the answer involves what they call “overconfidence.” In several experiments, they found that people who came from a higher social class were more likely to have an inflated sense of their skills — even when tests proved that they were average. This unmerited overconfidence, they found, was interpreted by strangers as competence.

. . .

In an attempt to understand the implications of overconfidence, the researchers constructed a mock job interview. The students were asked the same question and videotaped. A group of strangers then watched the videos and rated the candidates. The selection committee generally opted for the same people who’d overestimated their trivia abilities. Overconfidence was misinterpreted as competence.

. . .

So how do managers, employers, voters and customers avoid overvaluing social class and being duped by incompetent wealthy people? Dr. Kennedy said she had been encouraged to find that if you show people actual facts about a person, the elevated status that comes with overconfidence often fades away.

“We may also need to punish overconfident behavior more than we do,” she said.

For the full story, see:

Heather Murphy. “Why High-Class People Think They Know More, and Why You Believe Them.” The New York Times (Tuesday, May 21, 2019): B6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 20, 2019, and has the title “Why High-Class People Get Away With Incompetence.”)

The study mentioned above from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is:

Belmi, Peter, Margaret A. Neale, David Reiff, and Rosemary Ulfe. “The Social Advantage of Miscalibrated Individuals: The Relationship between Social Class and Overconfidence and Its Implications for Class-Based Inequality.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (May 20, 2019), published online in advance of print publication.

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