People tend to overestimate their importance

Overconfidence: The high-flyer phenomenon

I can do it ... I know that ... I am the best ...Overconfidence is a common phenomenon. And believe it or not: the chances are good that you too like to gloss over your self-image. But where does the urge to put yourself in a better light come from? And more importantly, which one Effects has the overestimation of oneself on daily life? One thing is clear: If such views and overestimates meet, conflicts are programmed, because at the end of the day someone has to realize that he or she may not be as good as he or she assumed. In the extreme it brings overconfidence real dangers with himself ...

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Definition: what is overconfidence?

Basically, it is the overconfidence (see also Overconfidence effect) to be an exaggerated positive Misjudgment of one's own abilities or adopting your own superiority over other. Psychologists also speak of one cognitive bias of perception. The person affected believes that they can do more, hold out longer, or have greater influence than is actually the case.

This makes overconfidence a close relative of the arrogance. Accordingly, quite a number of those affected tend to attribute successes to themselves only, while failures to the circumstances (or others). There is also a technical term for this: self-worthy attribution.

However, this ego trap is not new. Already in Greek mythology the phenomenon is at Icarus described: Because he was being held prisoner on the island of Crete, he made an escape and flight apparatus out of feathers and wax. But because he wanted to go too high, he came too close to the sun. Result: The wax melted, Icarus fell into the sea. Haughtiness comes before the event.

But the myth shows at the same time: The Believe in ourselves is an important part of one's own (survival) life strategy. Without this conviction, there would be little progress or success. The catch: the line to overconfidence is fluid.

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Overconfidence: Are They All That Good?

If you believe some surveys, it should The population consists only of the gifted and incredibly talented, intelligent experts consist. In a survey of American teachers, for example, almost 95 percent of those questioned rated their own teaching skills as above average. The picture is only slightly different for the schoolchildren: A survey with one million students questioned showed that 70 percent consider their performance to be better than average. On the other hand, just two percent thought they were below average.

A meta-analysis, for which the psychologists Ethan Zell from the University of North Carolina and Zlatan Krizan from the Iowa State University evaluated 22 studies with more than 200,000 participants, also found that the vast majority were far overshot the markas far as one's own skills were concerned.

People don't just like to see themselves as Crown of creation, but also as a seeing king enthroned over a crowd of blind people. As early as 1776, the Scottish economist Adam Smith wrote: “The chance of winning is overestimated by everyone; the chance of losing is underestimated by most people. "

Overconfidence is a Mass phenomenon. Regardless of whether it's an intelligence test, job performance or driving talent: The majority believe they are better than the rest.

Some argue that the overconfidence is ultimately just that Self-confidence Strength. But that is also a short circuit. Real self-confidence simply includes your own abilities realistic to judge. Only then does it lead to real self-confidence. The overestimating self, however, always remains insecure inside and suspects the self-deception.

A lot Self-image unfortunately turns out to be a cosmos of self-deception, whitewashing and self-righteousness in real life. Incompetent people in particular tend to overestimate themselves (see also Dunning-Kruger Effect).

It is easy to get lost, however, as if you think you know the way. Georg Christoph Lichtenberg for example warned early on:

The man who thinks himself to be a genius at an early age is lost.

Why do we gloss over our self-image?

Our frequent overconfidence can often be reduced to two different causes return:

  1. On the one hand, it has to do with our society: at school, at work, in sport, it's often not just about performance, but also about competition. People stand in constant competition to each other. Sometimes even in the neighborhood (who has the bigger house, the newer car ...?). It's anchored in our consciousness, always to be better, faster, or smarter than others to assert ourselves. So our brains like to help us out and give our own abilities a little bonus in order to meet the high demands. Conversely, it gnaws at self-confidence to admit that one's own (school or professional) talents are at best average. For many, that comes to mind Admission of your own inadequacy equal.
  2. The second cause of our overconfidence can be quickly summarized: Because it's worth it. Those who praise their own achievements in the sky can indeed drive their environment close to a nervous breakdown, but in many cases they do very well themselves. Admittedly, the embellished self-perception should not even exist because it leads to ruin sooner rather than later. In fact, however, the cognitive bias is part of natural selection, say scientists James Fowler and Dominic Johnson of the University of California at San Diego, for example. In your game theory experiments, you were able to show “that overestimation of yourself over realistic self-analysis often prevails”. As with a gorilla who drums himself on the chest to demonstrate strength and thus avoid the exhausting fight, the overconfidence is intended to intimidate opponents in order to win the object of desire without a fight. At the same time, it makes those affected more ambitious and courageous - and as a result they actually achieve more.

Risk of overestimating oneself: Exaggeratedly high

Despite positive side effects, the overconfidence in most cases has a negative effect dangerous out.

Example road traffic: A Canadian study once found that most drivers believe they drive better than the average. So absorbed by your own driving skills, it can quickly turn into carelessness at the wheel, into daring driving maneuvers and excessive speed because they believe they can still control the situation. Numerous accidents can be traced back to it.

Or in business: Hubris is not uncommon, especially at the top of companies. The effects - also devastating here: costly wrong decisions, mismanagement, Cheating, infidelity, concealment, affairs, Scandals, Bankruptcies, bad luck and mishaps. Power always seduces you to Abuse of power. You only remember Mark Hurd, CEO of the American IT group Hewlett-Packard. As a top manager, he made around $ 82,000 a day alone. In 2010, however, he had to resign from his post due to falsified expense reports. Their value at the time: just under $ 20,000.

Studies by Matthew Billett and Yiming Qian from the University of Iowa, for example, evaluated around 3500 acquisition decisions made by more than 2000 US CEOs between 1985 and 2002. Result: The managers were tempted by initial successes regularly overestimating yourself and the value of the company acquisition the next time - with high financial damage for your company. This is often due to the proverbial loneliness at the top.

But also on a small scale and with ours everyday decisions such a miscalculation can become a problem. For example, if you are sure that you have the necessary qualifications for a job and only find out afterwards that you are hopelessly overwhelmed with the tasks (see also Peter principle).

According to studies (PDF) by Don A. Moore of Carnegie Mellon University, overconfidence is often linked to that Task level together. Or to put it another way:

  • At difficult tasks we tend to underestimate our capabilities.
  • At light and everyday tasks however, there is a tendency to overestimate.

So the easier the task, the sooner it is Attention commanded.

Who is more likely to exaggerate - men or women?

Basically: Nobody is immune from overconfidence. Nevertheless, some groups can be filtered out that tend to be one positively distorted self-image to have:

  • Men

    In a comparison between the sexes, it is the men who are more convinced of themselves and their competent abilities and who put themselves in a better light, but unfortunately not always rightly. Reason: In the male world, self-confidence, strength and success are still strong masculine value criteria. Anyone who cannot or does not know something is quickly seen as a loser. The tendency to overestimate oneself is therefore more pronounced here.

  • Young people

    Children and adolescents are particularly prone to overestimating themselves. However, this diminishes with age and the associated experience. This is related to the fact that older people have fitted into a hierarchy both privately and professionally and have found their social status and know themselves better.

  • Experts |

    So-called experts in particular regularly overestimate their abilities, as shown, for example, in studies by neuroscientist Kevin Dunbar from the University of Toronto. The more secure we feel in a certain area, the faster we fall into the trap of falling in love with ourselves and believe that just because we say it as "Pope" for something is already true.

Overconfidence: Here's What You Can Do About It

There is a simple reason that most people find it difficult to get a grip on such a caricature of themselves and their own overconfidence: You don't know anything about it. This is exactly what makes the wrong prognosis so dangerous: Because we unknowingly consider ourselves stronger, smarter or better, sooner or later we run into problems.

After all, you can do something about your overconfidence at an early stage. For example with the following three steps:

  1. Question yourself

    Can I really do that? You should ask yourself this question again and again and answer it honestly (!). It is easy to fall into the mistaken belief that you are particularly good at something. If, on the other hand, you regularly question your abilities and assess them honestly, your self-image will be closer to reality.

  2. Get feedback

    For a realistic self-assessment, you should get regular feedback from your family, friends or colleagues. Ask them for an honest opinion on your abilities and compare this external image with your own perception. If there are major differences here, you have a good clue as to where you might colorize yourself.

  3. Admit mistakes

    The most important step is to admit to yourself that you don't know or know everything and that you are not perfect. Easier said than done - especially in front of an audience. Admitting to one's own weaknesses is an important part of character maturity. This is the only way to achieve a healthy self-image. No one is made up of only strengths.

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