We overestimate and underestimate our abilities in weird ways.
First, people tend to be overconfident on skills that reflect one’s underlying personality or character. This helps explain why people overestimated how they compare with others in their ethics, their reliability as a friend and their value as a human being.
.. And since many people feel pressure to conform to gender norms, this may help us understand why men and women tend to be particularly overconfident on different tasks. Across the 100 skills tested, men are a bit more overconfident overall in how they compared themselves with members of their gender. But men’s overconfidence is particularly noticeable in stereotypically male tasks. Men think they can best the majority of other men in poker, fixing a chair and understanding science. Women are far less confident that they can outperform other women in these tasks.
In contrast, women think they are better than most other women in understanding other people’s feelings, cooking a delicious meal and child-rearing. Men are less confident that they outrank other men in these tasks... Fun fact: The average man thought he would be better than 63 percent of other men if he had to survive a zombie apocalypse. The average woman thought she would be better than 47 percent of other women at this task... Another factor that predicted overconfidence is how much a person’s skill level at a trait is a matter of opinion. Give people more wiggle room in how they can define the skill, and they will tend to rate themselves higher. People were slightly more overconfident in how they ranked their intelligence (somewhat subjective) than their performance on an IQ test (seemingly more objective.)
Next, the researchers found that people tend to be overconfident on tasks that are perceived as easy and underconfident on tasks that are perceived as hard. People overestimate how they compare with others in chopping vegetables (easy) but underestimate where they rank in their ability to recite the alphabet backward (hard).
You can see the effect of difficulty on overconfidence clearly in a series of questions the researchers asked about lifting weights. On average, people thought they could outperform 71 percent of others in lifting 10 pounds; 64 percent in lifting 30 pounds; and 55 percent in lifting 50 pounds.
The final factor that influenced confidence is experience. The more experienced people are at a task, the more people tend to be overconfident. People tend to be overconfident in their skill at making scrambled eggs, which most people have done multiple times, and underconfident in their ability to paint a portrait, which most people have rarely tried.
Doing something often will, of course, tend to increase your skill. But it seems that as people gain experience, their confidence goes up faster than their skill.
One of the implications of this research is that people may systematically underestimate their ability to do really hard things that they have never tried before — a notable exception being men’s rating of their ability to handle a zombie apocalypse.
People are indeed overconfident in their ability to drive. (In our sample, people thought they would outperform 66 percent of others in driving.) But people think they are better than 52 percent of others at driving on ice, something that is more difficult and that they do less frequently. And they think they would be better than only 42 percent of others in driving a racing car, something that is really difficult and that most people never try.
Other difficult, relatively rarely tried activities in which people think they would be worse than most include running marathons, making a billion dollars and saving humanity.
What does this research tell us about human nature?
.. Sure, many people still traipse around deluded that they outshine others in their driving on non-icy roads, vegetable-chopping and cuddling. But when they imagine doing something difficult or something that they haven’t tried before, people tend to be timid and doubtful of their capabilities. When they go outside their comfort zone, people systematically sell themselves short.
Your Tolerance for Investment Risk Is Probably Not What You Think
Questions financial advisers ask clients to get at the answer actually measure something completely different—often leading to misguided investment strategies
they take all sorts of different concepts—such as regret, fear and overconfidence—and they lump them all together under this vague concept called risk. Each of those things is worth understanding and examining on its own.
.. people who are labeled as having a high tolerance for risk may really be reflecting dangerous overconfidence. You don’t want them owning portfolios of risky stocks because they have a mistaken sense of their ability to pick winners. Conversely, investors who are considered to have a low tolerance for risk could actually be excessively afraid of daily ups and downs. Instead of having them forgo the returns from stocks, better to teach them to overcome the fear, rather than let the effects of fear bleed into their investment decisions.
.. Rather, how people feel about a big decline depends almost entirely on what has been happening in the market recently. So asking people how they would feel if the market falls 40% is likely to elicit an answer “I am afraid” in the wake of a big decline, and elicit “I am not afraid” when the market has been moving up. Asking people today how they felt in March 2009 is likely to elicit a response indicating less fear than they actually felt in 2009.
Donald Trump Isn’t Sorry
The Republican candidate refuses to apologize for his mistakes—and that may be key to his success.
Being Donald Trump means never having to say you’re sorry.
That, he explained to Jimmy Fallon last September, is among the advantages of never being wrong. “I fully think apologizing is a great thing, but you have to be wrong … I will absolutely apologize sometime in the distant future if I’m ever wrong.”
Instead of apologizing swiftly, assuming responsibility, and putting controversies behind him, Trump prefers to deny potential problems, disclaim responsibility, and move on to some fresh controversy. It flies in the face of decades of accrued wisdom about how to handle political crises. And it appears to be working for him.
.. When social-media users quickly objected that the conjunction of the star and the cash seemed to traffic in anti-Semitic tropes, Trump took the rare step of deleting and replacing it:
.. He offered no apology, no admission of error, and no explanation.
.. It’s a minor classic of its genre. There’s the arms-length distancing from the problem. The introduction of irrelevant information—Sheriffs! Microsoft!—to cloud the issue. And the concluding sorry-if-you-were-offended half apology.
.. Trump has a genius for repurposing images and slogans, drawing them from an eclectic array of sources. Ronald Reagan urged, “Let’s make America great again!” America First has been a slogan used by politicians from Woodrow Wilson to William Randolph Hearst. It’s not always clear that Trump knows, or cares, about their origins.
.. many find overconfidence and a willingness to discard rules attractive. Trump appears willing to put that to the test, gambling that he can win by projecting certainty and confidence, that voters would rather have a self-assured leader than one willing to acknowledge missteps.
Brooks: I Miss Barack Obama
The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free. Think of the way Iran-contra or the Lewinsky scandals swallowed years from Reagan and Clinton... Fifth, a resilient sense of optimism. To hear Sanders or Trump, Cruz and Ben Carson campaign is to wallow in the pornography of pessimism, to conclude that this country is on the verge of complete collapse. That’s simply not true. We have problems, but they are less serious than those faced by just about any other nation on earth.