Can Overconfidence Be Confused With Competence?

(Time) How Overconfidence and Paranoia Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

By MAIA SZALAVITZ | @maiasz | August 22, 2012

People’s overconfidence can be confused with competence, while their paranoia can elicit the very anger and rejection they’re seeking to avoid

From Shakespeare to The Secret, the idea that our thoughts and perceptions shape our reality is recognized as a powerful truth. As the Bard wrote, “[T]here is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

While charlatans have long used this belief to promote bogus cancer cures and get-rich-quick schemes, psychologists are now actually beginning to understand how “faking it ’til you make it” — or alternatively, psyching yourself out with negative thinking — works in the social world. Two fascinating recent studies — one on confidence; the other exploring social fears — reveal how our own positive and negative stances work to alter our relationships and careers.

The first study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, explored the positive effects of overconfidence, showing that it enhances social status by presenting a false image of competence. If you’ve ever wondered how the utterly clueless rise to the top, or why managers often seem to make worse decisions than dart-throwing bonobos, this research provides some insight.

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Also see What Does it Take to Create a Hitler or a Stalin?Can You Blame His Mother If Your Partner Holds Grudges?They’re Obnoxious And They Love ItAre Powerful Women Just as Likely to Have Affairs? and Does Caffeine Make Us Easier to Persuade?

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