Study: Self-delusion may be a winning survival strategy

Sep 14, 2011

Harbouring a mistakenly inflated belief that we can easily meet challenges or win conflicts is actually good for us, a new study suggests.

Researchers have shown for the first time that overconfidence actually beats accurate assessments in a wide variety of situations, be it sport, business or even war.

However, this bold approach also risks wreaking ever-greater havoc. The authors cite the 2008 financial crash and the 2003 Iraq war as just two examples of when extreme overconfidence backfired.

A team from the University of Edinburgh and the University of California, San Diego used a to simulate the effects of overconfidence over generations. It pitted overconfident, accurate, and underconfident strategies against each other.

A paper published in Nature today shows that overconfidence frequently brings rewards, as long as spoils of conflict are sufficiently large compared with the costs of competing for them. In contrast, people with unbiased, accurate perceptions usually fare worse.

The implications are that, over a long period of time the evolutionary principal of is likely to have favoured a bias towards overconfidence. Therefore people with the mentality of someone like boxer Mohammad Ali would have left more descendents than those with the mindset of film maker Woody Allen.

The evolutionary model also showed that overconfidence becomes greatest in the face of high levels of uncertainty and risk. When we face unfamiliar enemies or new technologies, overconfidence becomes an even better strategy.

Dr Dominic Johnson, reader in Politics and International Relations at the University: "The model shows that overconfidence can plausibly evolve in wide range of environments, as well as the situations in which it will fail. The question now is how to channel human so we can exploit its benefits while avoiding occasional disasters."

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Provided by University of Edinburgh

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User comments : 18

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stealthc
5 / 5 (6) Sep 14, 2011
no it isn't, it results in egotistical and maniacal politicians who think they are great while confirming what the definition of truely incompetent management is at the same time. Politicians are the most deluded of all if they actually believe half the lies that they spew out there talking heads.
Nanobanano
2 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2011
Psychosis, paranoia, and manic depression are admirable traits as well.

oh wait...

I doubt they have a reasonable subjective metric of overconfidence anyway.

Certainly anyone who's ever done anything with REAL strategies in game theory or in actual strategy gaming or war gaming would know that overconfidence is not a good thing. Neither is being over conservative.

Overconfidence will often get you a quick loss in an RTS, for example.

the problem in Iraq and afghanistan was not over confidence at all.

the problem there was Political Correctness AND a complete failure of our people and our government to comprehend the absolute evil of islam, and the fact that our "enemy" was no tjust some splinter cell group in these countries, but a significant portion of the population and possibly (PROBABLY) even a majority...

You can't win a war if you REFUSE to identify and attack your REAL enemy.
Nanobanano
3 / 5 (4) Sep 14, 2011
Our evil, politically correct leaders placed rules of engagement on the troops that made it impossible to win any war, nevermind guerilla warfare in urban theatre.

Our troops were not allowed to fire a shot at enemy combatants unless the muslims fired the first shot!

Think of that. Our government told the troops, "You have to ALLOW your enemy to get in a free shot before you can take any offensive action."

Then you wonder why so many deaths and injuries on our side (even though it was still a historically low number, but probably 100 times worse than it SHOULD HAVE AND COULD HAVE BEEN.)

The whole premise of the nation building in Iraq was faulty.

You can't give democracy to evil people and expect something good of it. You just have an evil democracy. Iraq was a democracy before Saddam Hussein, and the EVIL MAJORITY (not a fringe element,) voted him into more and more power, and ironically, the U.S. republicans ARMED HIM IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2011
Over confidence is definitely not the correct word.

The correct word is really "treason" which is being comitted by the leaders of the country, AND by the media, who dumbs down and conceals the truth about the evil of Islam, of which the Koran issues blanket commands to muslims to slaughter christians and jews whenever and where ever possible, and even gives them permission to break other laws in the Koran if it furthers the murdering of christians and jews.

The enemy uses total warfare and suicide/sapper attacks, and you're worried about who shot first in every individual fire fight? That's either pure insanity, or intentionally forfeiting victory, either way it's treason.

Who thinks anything has really changed in the middle east?

So what, they killed Bin laden and a few of his cronies.

What about Hamas, taliban, al-quaeda, PLO, and other terrorist organisations? They just hop back and forth across borders, and the guys we put in power are no better than them...
emsquared
not rated yet Sep 14, 2011
You're an interesting character Nano... an interesting character with a whole lot of free time on his hands.
Nanobanano
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 14, 2011
You're an interesting character Nano... an interesting character with a whole lot of free time on his hands.


Honestly, this site's about the only thing around that doesn't bore the hell out of me lately.

Yeah, I'm oppinionated, and yeah I'm wrong a lot too, oh well.

But you know what? This isn't the America I grew up in. I don't know what the hell happened to it in the past 15 years or so, but it's like everything is completely warped.

The "pro life" Tea Party and Republican party falsely accused Obamacare of being "death panels", but a republican audience then cheers and calls for the death of a hypothetical 30 year old who's sick and down on his luck? And Ron Paul says, "That's freedom!"

Wow. Guess that whole "Right to life" thing went out the window.

My God.

These people are unqualified candidates, regardless of their education, and the insane audience are unqualified voters. They are lunatics.
Nanobanano
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 14, 2011
What happened to the "Golden Rule" or the parable of the Good Samaritan?

It's amazing the Republican party, both candidates and voters, on the surface claim to be so obsessed with Christianity, and yet in reality they're actions and policies even to their own countrymen are nothing of the sort.

Does the republican look like the Good Samaritan? Heck no.

He looks like the pharisee who passed by on the side of the road and looked the other way.

The guy in the parable did no wrong, and was just attacked by thieves through no fault of his own. What would Ron Paul say, "Well, he should have bought insurance. That's freedom," ..., "what's that? He couldn't afford it? Oh well, tough luck, should have worked/studied harder and stuff..."

AT the end of the day, there's probably going to be more fake "christians" in hell than there are muslims.

Freakin millionaires talking about life/death spending decisions, and they've never been in the situation themselves. Evil bastards..
emsquared
5 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2011
I don't disagree with the uber-conservative, evil bastards part.

But if you're not wholly liberal, you're certainly populist, and it seems like there's some disconnect between that and calling Islam as a whole, evil.

Which not that I wholly disagree with that either, I think there's many aspects of that religion that are down right draconian and counter-productive to a peaceful planet, but that goes for most religions.

But anyway, that disconnect was mostly what I was talking about.

Indeed, I hope your vehemence and opinions go beyond the internet, regardless of what they are, we need people to care again. Not just be consumed by liberal vs. conservative...
theskepticalpsychic
3 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2011
Well, at least we know that overconfident people are more likely to have sex than less confident people do.
Deesky
5 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2011
You're an interesting character Nano...

As interesting as QuantumConundrum!

Study: Self-delusion may be a winning survival strategy

That explains Oliver, Kevin, Marjon and Zephyr then...
88HUX88
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
Mohammad Ali was not overconfident, he was good. And how about using the correct spelling for principle and getting descendants right? I accept you could use confidence as a strategy but it can only described as overconfidence after the event - and failure.
rawa1
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
That explains Oliver, Kevin, Marjon and Zephyr then...
The belief in your stuff is one thing, the other is to understand and apply it. And I don't believe in good luck too much. When the classical sparse aether model failed, the physicists like Oliver Lodge started to think about dense aether model immediately. This model even gained some popularity in 1904-1912 years and it appeared in some textbooks.

But what such model could offer the physicists in its time without computers and particle simulations? He could explain many things, but physicists do need a stable jobs and math models for their publications and they don't care, if they're explaining something or not (actually the less transparent these models are, the easier they could keep their informational monopoly).

From this reason the dense aether model had to wait one hundred years until the formal approach didn't revealed its limits too - so it begins threat the existence of physicists again.
rawa1
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
Albert Einstein was definitely a self-contingent guy - but the truth was, if he wouldn't propose the special relativity, Poincare or Lorentz would formulate it in just a few years (if not months) later. And the publishing of general relativity was rather strategical race with Hilbert, than the product of Einstein delusion. The social situation converged into public acceptance of this theory so much, that Einstein knew quite well, if he wouldn't publish general relativity ASAP, Hilbert would do it in just few weeks later.

We shouldn't overestimate the role and selfconfidence of individuals in development of scientific ideas so much - they're rather of emergent nature and origin.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Sep 15, 2011
As interesting as QuantumConundrum!
I was just about to say the same thing.

"Study: Self-delusion may be a winning survival strategy"

-Is certainly not the maniacal compulsive neuroticism of QC when he stops taking his meds. No this is the enthusiasm of adolescent pioneers in any species who are compelled to seek out new niches as old ones become filled. Without it how would ground squirrels become tree squirrels? How would tree squirrels learn to fly?

They are the adolescents who gather at the outskirts of the tribe. They will either leave as a group or, if there's nowhere to go, they will plot to CHANGE things within the tribe to make a place for themselves. Either way they are potential trouble.

Jane goodall relates an instance where some young male chimps had trouble with the head male, and so chose to leave with some of the females. After brooding for a few weeks the alpha male took a raiding party after this new tribe, killed the males, and reclaimed the females.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Sep 15, 2011
Because as the Germans say 'Angriff ist de beste Verteidigung'; attack is the best defense.

This pioneering spirit is also why youth tend to be liberal and become more conservative as they age. Some never do 'grow up', or fit in. If they were able to establish their own colony they would become conservative very quickly.

Countdown to the next QC banhammer: 5 days and counting...
rawa1
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
The self-delusion is an inertial tendency to follow certain paradigm in thinking, i.e. the brane gradient of casual space-time. After then the success just depends on the social environment, i.e. whether its causal space-time is curved in the same way or not.

Albert Hitler was definitely a convinced Nazi - but what would happen with him and his ideas, if he would born in rich society USA or Sweden of the 60's (i.e. in the socially optimistic era of Ghandi and hippies)? He would just face an universal mockery like all similar freaks - the more, the more he would insist of his truth.

His self-delusion would burrow him instead into oblivion, if he wouldn't follow the momentary social order. The key of success is rather in the ability to recognize it (i.e. the adaptability) and in persistence. No miracle will save you, if you miss the actual social order, like Giordano Bruno or Galileo did.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Sep 15, 2011
From this reason the dense aether model had to wait one hundred years until the formal approach didn't revealed its limits too - so it begins threat the existence of physicists again.
I suppose you should have outgrown it by then eh alizee?
kochevnik
1 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
@Nanobanano the evil of Islam, of which the Koran issues blanket commands to muslims to slaughter christians and jews ...
Nice to see we finally have a likely Jewish supremest to balance all the xtian penis worshipers trolling the comment sections. I think all the Abrahamic fanatics should be equally represented...just not on a science site. It would be better for all if you post on an arcade game board like "Silent Hill" where you nutballs can takes each-other out nonstop.