Overconfidence linked to one's view of intelligence

March 7, 2016
Overconfidence linked to one's view of intelligence
Washington State University psychologist Joyce Ehrlinger has found that a person's tendency to be overconfident increases if he or she thinks intelligence is fixed and unchangeable. Credit: WSU

Washington State University researcher Joyce Ehrlinger has found that a person's tendency to be overconfident increases if he or she thinks intelligence is fixed and unchangeable.

Such people tend to maintain their overconfidence by concentrating on the easy parts of tasks while spending as little time as possible on the hard parts of tasks, said Ehrlinger, a WSU assistant professor of psychology. But people who hold a growth mindset—meaning they think intelligence is a changeable quality—spend more time on the challenging parts of tasks, she said. Consequently, their levels of confidence are more in line with their abilities.

Ehrlinger's research, conducted with Ainsley Mitchum of Florida State University and Carol Dweck of Stanford University, appears in the March edition of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

"A little bit of overconfidence can be helpful," said Ehrlinger, "but larger amounts of overconfidence can lead people to make bad decisions and to miss out on opportunities to learn." The researchers note that overconfidence is a documented problem for drivers, motorcyclists, bungee jumpers, doctors and lawyers.

In the first of three studies for their recent paper, Ehrlinger and her colleagues found that students who hold a fixed mindset about intelligence were more overconfident about their performance on a multiple-choice test than those with a growth mindset. A second study found that students with fixed mindsets devoted less attention to difficult problems and, consequently, displayed more overconfidence than those with growth mindsets.

"By focusing on aspects of the task that were easy and spending as little time as possible on more difficult parts of the task," Dr. Ehrlinger said, "fixed theorists felt as if they had performed very well relative to their peers. In contrast, growth theorists weren't threatened by challenging parts of the task and didn't feel the need to bask in the glow of the parts that were easy. This more balanced way of completing the task left growth theorists with a better understanding of how well they did."

Further evidence for this conclusion came from a third study, which showed that forcing fixed theorists to really look at the difficult as well as the easy parts of an intellectual task shook their confidence, inspiring more accurate impressions of their performance.

The study fits in with WSU's Grand Challenges initiative stimulating research to address some of society's most complex issues. It is particularly relevant to the challenge of "Advancing Opportunity and Equity," which, among other things, will look at the causes and consequences of inequal opportunity and ways to improve education.

"We know that students' beliefs about are very consequential in the classroom and that interventions that teach students a growth mindset lead to improvements in their grades," said Ehrlinger. "We also know that being overconfident keeps people from learning. You have to understand and acknowledge what you don't yet know in order to truly learn. This research suggests that part of why growth mindsets improve learning might be because they lead people to better understand what they do and what they do not know."

"Education is perhaps the best way to advance opportunity," she said, "and emerging evidence suggests that the benefits of teaching a growth mindset for improving grades are particularly strong for students in stigmatized groups based on race or gender."

Explore further: Think you're a comic genius? Maybe you're just overconfident

More information: Joyce Ehrlinger et al. Understanding overconfidence: Theories of intelligence, preferential attention, and distorted self-assessment, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2015.11.001

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Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (5) Mar 07, 2016
Declaring, without proof, that God is not present; that UFO's can't be real; that "evolution" necessarily occurs; that vaccines cannot have poisons in them; that "conspiracy theories are necessarily untrue and the only truth is what the New World Order wants us to believe are also examples of such "overconfidence". Denying categorically that there is nothing beyond that which can be detected by metal measuring machines or that it is impossible that anything beyond the conventional is possible is even against the rules that "science" itself claims to follow. There is nothing that "science" says that can or should be taken at face value.
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 07, 2016
Denying categorically that there is nothing beyond that which can be detected

No one is denying that categorically. But everyone is denying that stating the opposite: that there MUST be something beyond, that conspiracy theories ARE true, thae UFOs ARE real, that gods DO exist, that intuition is enough to underpin a 'worldshaking insight' etc...are just making that mistake you decry (i.e. overconfidence).

For some reasons the people who actually do work and show results are those that the article terms as people who excercise their intelligence. They go out and do the hard part: slogging through the work to see if what they suspect is actually right (or wrong).

Intelligence needs to be excercised. It needs to be put to the test. Without that it's just empty bluster.
1 / 5 (4) Mar 07, 2016
antialias_physorg is a liar. The "scientists" deny every single one of the statements. They declare definitively that God is not present, calling those who invoke questions about the contents of vaccines or who promote "conspiracy theories" idiots, morons, imbeciles. Those who accept any of these things do not demonstrate the arrogance and contempt that characterize overconfidence, that the "scientists" display constantly. And refusing to engage in any examination of claims beyond the conventional is saying, definitively, that there is nothing beyond what is written in the books.
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2016
Dunning Kruger ^^^
1 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2016
Blind you are dudester.

Anti-Thinking is the one severely influenced by the Dunning Kruger effect, while often parroting some textbook or referencing Wikipedia.

Go back to the beach dudester.

5 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2016
The "scientists" deny every single one of the statements.

No. We say: prove it (i.e. show the evidence). Until and unless you do this you're just falling into the overconfidence trap.

As soon as you come up with independently verifiable proof scientists will be all too happy to do research on it.

They declare definitively that God is not present,

No. They say: Unti and unless you come up with an independently verifiable proof for gods it's a non-issue. You saying "gods exist" doesn't make it so. Exactly like me saying "the color umquartifods exists" doesn't make it so.

calling those who invoke questions about the contents of vaccines or who promote "conspiracy theories" idiots, morons, imbeciles

We call people idiots who make statements without providing proof. What's wrong with that? Just making allegations doesn't make one smart.

Scientists don't examine claims if there's no evidence supplied by the claimant. There's no point.

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