When Confidence Trumps Competence

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Another study shows that people prefer confidence to accuracy when choosing an expert to trust:

Researchers at Washington State University did an exhaustive analysis of non-celebrity “pundits” who made predictions about the outcomes of sporting events. They rated each social media post that involved a prediction for its confidence level. For example, a prediction that one team would “crush” another is more confident than merely projecting a “win.” They checked predictions against actual game results to gauge accuracy, and also analyzed the number of followers each built over time.

The results were surprising. While accuracy of predictions did lead to a small but statistically significant increase in the number of followers, confidence was nearly three times as powerful.

The potent effects of confidence on trust aren’t new. As I described in Convince With Confidence, Carnegie Mellon researchers had subjects participate in a weight-guessing game in which they could purchase the assistance of “advisers.” They tended to choose those advisers who were more confident, even when after multiple rounds those advisers were less accurate than others.


  1. Alrenous says:

    A case of psychologists triumphantly showing humans are losing some game…only because they’re winning at a more important game. In neither sporting events nor weight-guessing games is the outcome of critical importance. However, associating yourself with confident people is always of critical importance.

  2. Jonathan says:

    There are probably a lot of people in jail because of this.

  3. lucklucky says:

    Hitler is a clear case of a confidence game winner. Which shows the danger of it.

    We essence is a bit of what a appears to be “stronger horse”

  4. Aaaargh! says:

    Putin is another.

    Most people are incapable of seeing reality except in hindsight. And even then, only a few.

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