December 20, 2015
Overconfidence and the fixed mindset
Self-assessments of competence are often unreliable. Many studies have shown that people tend to overestimate their skills and expertise. There are several explanations for this. One explanation is the Dunning-Kruger effect: if you know little about a subject, you do not realize how much knowledge you miss, due to which you will be inclined to overestimate yourself. Another explanation is that people overestimate themselves in order to feel good about themselves (this type of explanation is associated with the concept of self-enhancement).
A new paper sheds new light on overconfidence. Joyce Ehrlinger, Ainsley Mitchumb, & Carol Dweck (2015) studied the effects of mindsets on overconfidence. The type of overconfidence they studied is overplacement. This is the inclination to view oneself as better than others in a certain respect.
Three studies were done. Study 1 showed that people with a fixed mindset about intelligence are significantly more overconfident than people with a growth mindset about intelligence. In study 2, participants who were taught a fixed mindset about intelligence paid less attention to difficult problems than participants who were taught a growth about intelligence. Also, they were more overconfident, which was partly due to the fact that they paid less attention to difficult problems. Study 3 showed that when the attention of participants with a fixed mindset was focused on difficult aspects of the task, their overconfidence decreased.
In sum, mindset predicts the degree to which people are overconfident. A fixed mindset is associated with more overconfidence. This overconfidence is maintained by paying little attention to difficult aspects of tasks. Overconfidence can be decreased by exposing people to more difficult aspects of tasks and by teaching them a growth mindset.