We recently shared with you news that ambition drives happiness. Now a new study shows that an inflated belief that we can easily meet challenges or win conflicts is actually good for us.
Researchers have shown for the first time that overconfidence actually beats accurate assessments in a wide variety of situations, be it sport, business or even war.
However, this bold approach also risks wreaking ever-greater havoc. The authors cite the 2008 financial crash and the 2003 Iraq war as just two examples of when extreme overconfidence backfired.
A team from the University of Edinburgh and the University of California, San Diego used a mathematical model to simulate the effects of overconfidence over generations. It pitted overconfident, accurate and underconfident strategies against each other.
A paper published in Nature shows that overconfidence frequently brings rewards, as long as spoils of conflict are sufficiently large compared with the costs of competing for them. In contrast, people with unbiased, accurate perceptions usually fare worse.
The implications are that over a long period of time the evolutionary principal of natural selection is likely to have favoured a bias toward overconfidence.
Therefore people with the mentality of someone such as boxer Muhammad Ali would have left more descendants than those with the mindset of film maker Woody Allen.
The evolutionary model also showed that overconfidence becomes greatest in the face of high levels of uncertainty and risk. When we face unfamiliar enemies or new technologies, overconfidence becomes an even better strategy.
Would you say you're an overconfident person? Has it helped or harmed you?
(Story materials provided by the University of Edinburgh.)