Motorists of every form of transportation also exhibit overconfidence, and maybe that’s natural if you’re going to convince yourself that hurtling down a freeway in a ton of metal is perfectly safe. Unsurprisingly, bungee jumpers also tend to overestimate their safety.
How do we fight the scourge of overconfidence?
What this research suggests is that the best way to help students and employees learn is to teach the incremental theory of learning. They may not have an inflated sense of confidence, but they'll have the optimistic (and accurate) belief that they always have the ability to grow and improve.
This is important because people need to face their struggles in order to learn, and, as the study authors point out, "Entity theorists are likely to avoid difficult aspects of tasks that might require them to face up to the possibility that they are not performing well and, by extension, might not be smart."
Besides, overconfidence that comes from avoiding tasks you aren't good at isn't real confidence at all, so preaching incremental intelligence seems like the the best bet for genuine self-esteem. As study author Joyce Ehrlinger wrote in an email, "I don't think you can say anything about confidence in general. There are a million different types of confidence (e.g., optimism, willingness to take risks, confidence in your own athleticism v. confidence in how well you've performed on an intellectual task). My work only speaks to the last of those, at the moment. My guess is that people could generalize based on performance on other sorts of tasks and feel confident in other areas too, but no studies have been conducted that would show that for sure."
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.
Jessica Reidy is not trying to have it all. But she is writing a few books, working her Romani (“Gypsy”) family trades, and teaching university writing classes while espousing the virtues of balance in her yoga classes. Follow her at @JSReidy, which she's quite confident you won't regret doing.