Emotional Intelligence and being overconfident

This blog was prompted by this article in BBC.com: The dangers of being over-confident

Overconfidence is a cognitive bias that leads people to overestimate their abilities, knowledge, or chances of success.  A famous example is driving ability where 93% of drivers in a one study believed they were above average.   According to Rory Sutherland in the Spectator (3/6/23) it is standard practice in Speed Awareness Courses to begin by asking participants to rate their driving ability on a scale of 1 to 10, with 5 denoting a driver of average ability.  Almost everyone rates themselves a 7 or above, with vanishingly few people scoring their abilities below a 5: In one legendary case, the instructor singled out one driver. ‘You, sir, you gave yourself a 9. Would you like to revise that down?’ ‘Um, actually I was being modest. My name is Jody Scheckter and I was Formula 1 world champion in 1979.’

This cognitive bias sometimes gets called the Lake Wobegon Effect after the author Garrison Keiller’s fictional town in which all the children are above average; a more technical term is illusory superiority or simply, the-above-average effect.

For someone to be above average, some people do of course need to be average and others need to be below average, but we still don’t like placing ourselves in the latter category.

Of course, a little over-confidence can be useful. We want children to believe in themselves and have a go at new things. Success often comes from taking risks and stretching ourselves to the limits of our abilities or beyond. If you display confidence in yourself, you inspire confidence in others. You are more likely to be believed, trusted and promoted if you express your views confidently. There is, though, a paradoxical element to all this boosterism which is known in psychology as the Dunning-Kruger effect after a study which showed that the people who overestimated their abilities the most were the worst when it came to actual attainment.

So where does all this overconfidence come from? Gender has an impact. On average men are more likely to display overconfidence.

We live in a culture that encourages us to think that we “can do anything” if only we “believe in ourselves”. We don’t want to be hobbled by self-doubt or a fear of failure. But an honest assessment of our abilities is important too.

The 7MTF model of temperament that I developed can help individuals understand their emotional intelligence, how it affects their decision-making and how overconfidence can be addressed.  In particular people with high GoGetter and Politician in their profile are likely to be overconfident.  By understanding the 7MTF model of temperament and how it affects decision-making, individuals can become more aware of their emotions and how they influence their behaviour. They can also learn to identify situations where they may be overconfident and take steps to address this bias. This may involve seeking feedback from others, learning from mistakes, and taking a more cautious approach in certain situations.

Overconfidence can have negative consequences, including poor decision-making, failure to learn from mistakes, and reduced emotional intelligence. People who are overconfident tend to overestimate their abilities, which can lead to poor decision-making and increased risk-taking. They may also fail to learn from their mistakes, as they believe they are already experts in a particular area. This can reduce emotional intelligence, as individuals who are overconfident may struggle to regulate their emotions and respond appropriately to different situations.  President Trump is a wonderful example of the GoGetter-Politician in action.

In conclusion, overconfidence is a common cognitive bias that can have negative consequences for emotional intelligence and decision-making. By understanding the 7MTF model of temperament and recognizing the influence of different personality traits, individuals can become more aware of their emotions and how they influence their behaviour. They can also learn to identify situations where they may be overconfident and take steps to address this bias, leading to better decision-making and improved emotional intelligence.

Finally this quote about Elon Musk’s overconfidence by Charlie Munger (aka Warren Buffet’s business partner) provides sound advice: “[Elon] would not have achieved what he had in life if he hadn’t tried for unreasonably extreme objectives. He likes taking on the impossible job and doing it. We’re different, Warren and I, we’re looking for the easy jobs we can identify.”

This blog was first posted on LinkedIn




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