Study: People may use overconfidence to persuade or deceive others

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A pair of researchers, one from the University of Munich, the other the University of Amsterdam has found that people may behave with overconfidence as a means to persuade or deceive other people. In their paper published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, Peter Schwardmann and Joël van der Weele describe a two-stage experiment they carried out with volunteers and what they found.

Scientists who study have found through that most people tend to overrate their own abilities or characteristics. Most people think they are smarter than they actually are, for example. And most people seem to think they are better drivers than all the others on the road. But why is this? In this new effort, Schwardmann and van der Weele sought to find out if there might be an advantage to being overconfident—to that end, they carried out a two-stage experiment designed to reveal possible advantages.

In the first part of the experiment, a group of volunteers was given an ; half were told that they would receive €15 if they could convince other people that they did very well on the test. After taking the test, all of the volunteers were given their results and asked to convince other people that they had done well. Unbeknownst to the volunteers, not all were given their actual scores by the researchers. Some were given results that were higher, while others received a lower score. The researchers then studied the behavior of the volunteers as they tried to convince mock employers that they had scored high on the test.

The researchers report that those volunteers who were told they scored well on the test reported higher confidence to the researchers than those who were told they scored badly. That was the first result. The second part of the study was designed to find out if overconfidence gave people an advantage when dealing with other people. This involved studying the of the volunteers as they attempted to persuade a mock that they had done well on the test. The researchers report that those who were told they scored high on the test, whether they actually had or not, were better able to convince the employer that they had—an example of an advantage for overconfidence

Explore further

Researchers find breathing-in before doing a task might make you better at doing it

More information: Peter Schwardmann et al. Deception and self-deception, Nature Human Behaviour (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-019-0666-7
Journal information: Nature Human Behaviour

© 2019 Science X Network

Citation: Study: People may use overconfidence to persuade or deceive others (2019, July 30) retrieved 21 August 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jul 30, 2019
jeez - how much did it cost for this study.... did somebody NOT know this information already?

you never heard of the term 'confidence man' ???

Jul 30, 2019
Now who would have thought! Perhaps their next study could test this hypothesis: members of the species Homo sapiens use their mouth when they speak.

Jul 30, 2019
Wow, that's about as frank a confession as I've ever seen anyone make.

So @Henry, what's the source of your cynicism? Is this your technique and you assume everyone else uses it?

Meanwhile, gee, it's not like anyone on this site has ever used this. /s

Jul 31, 2019
Yes Henry. Schneib is always interested when men use their mouths.

Jul 31, 2019
"Likeable," "Charming," "Intelligent," "Alert," "Impressive," "Confidence-inspiring," and "A great success with the ladies": These are the sorts of descriptions repeatedly used by Cleckley in his famous case-studies of psychopaths. They are also, of course, "irresponsible," "self-destructive," and the like. These descriptions highlight the great frustrations and puzzles that surround the study of psychopathy.

"Psychopaths seem to have in abundance the very traits most desired by normal persons. The untroubled self-confidence of the psychopath seems almost like an impossible dream and is generally what "normal" people seek to acquire when they attend assertiveness training classes. In many instances, the magnetic attraction of the psychopath for members of the opposite sex seems almost supernatural."

Jul 31, 2019
Among other things, people who think they drive better than others aren't necessarily being overconfident as part of a ploy. They may be so self involved they do think they are unquestionably better.
The tactic of using confidence to convince others is commonplace in the Democratic Rackets. They declare with displays of certainty, for example, that Trump has engaged in "racist" activities, which he hasn't. They call him a "dictator" for use executive orders the way other presidents have. They declare the partition walled enclosures at detention centers, so children don't wander away and get hurt, "cages". They claim Trump "separated families", although many if not most adult illegal aliens with children weren't related to them! They claim he ordered a perpetual shut down of immigration from Muslim countries when he ordered a temporary travel ban from only a third such countries.
And the abysmally moronic or those who live to hate Trump believe them.

Jul 31, 2019
Hey @julianpenrod - agree with your first paragraph but your second paragraph is off-topic. Politics and political diatribes are un-scientific. If you could have somehow tied those that you chose to demonize as demonstrating overconfidence then your second paragraph might have been more on-topic. Instead you indulge yourself in the exact same behavior that you accuse the Democratic Racket - stating personal beliefs as facts. Since this is a science website, perform this little experiment: turn off Fox News, etc, for a month and then revisit your second paragraph. Would you still support what your wrote?

Jul 31, 2019

You might to know some facts.

Fact: Trump organization sued by Nixon administration - hardly a promoter of civil rights - for housing discrimination.

Fact: Trump organization racked up so many housing violations in Baltimore in the '70s - while Trump was working hand-in-hand with father Fred to run the company - that Baltimore housing authority revoked their permit/license/authority to make new leases. Since this affected the bottom line and fixing up their properties properly didn't help, Fred Trump flew to Baltimore and was arrested when he got there, the first arrest in 5 years according to newspaper articles at the time for housing code violations.

Fact: Look at a picture of the White House staff and try counting people of color. In the picture I saw a year or so ago you would have needed at most two (that's 2 for you) fingers out of a staff of well over a hundred (100 for you).

Fact: Racist, slumlord, immoral President Idiot. When is he kissing Putin's ass?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more