If you’ve ever heard or seen clips of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh ranting on about how the President is “going to lead a war on traditional marriage,” or the like, then you’ve probably noticed that most things he says are senseless. But he’s got spunk, and studies have shown that you don’t have to be accurate to be believable; all you need is confidence. Now, a new study further proves that it’s easy to deceive people when you’ve got too much confidence.
Researchers from Newcastle University and the University of Exeter called it being “self-deceived,” but it’s really just overconfidence. They found that people who were full of themselves were better able to get promotions or reach influential positions simply by letting their confidence exude onto other people, who were deceived into thinking the self-deceived were qualified. “These findings suggest that people don’t always reward the most accomplished individual but rather the most self-deceived,” said study author Dr. Vivek Nityananda, research associate at Newcastle, in a press release.
Indeed that is the case, and it’s probably because these people have tinges of narcissism within themselves. Narcissists are natural leaders, even if they’re not necessarily good at their job — it’s their competitive attitudes that get them there. From pundits like Rush Limbaugh to high school athletes, confidence is key to getting ahead in life, even if you don’t deserve it.
Nityananda discovered these misconceptions of the overconfident after studying a group of 72 college students, all of whom were asked to rate their own ability and that of their peers to complete an assignment. They found that 45 percent of the students were under-confident in their ability to score high — the researchers found these people were perceived as less able by others — while 40 percent of students were overconfident. These students were also perceived by others to be able to score high, regardless of what their actual grades were.
The researchers credited these illusory qualities, at least partially, to airplane crashes and financial crises — the idea being that self-deceived individuals are more likely to overestimate other people’s abilities and take greater risks. “If overconfident people are more likely to be risk prone then by promoting them we may be creating institutions, such as banks and armies, that are more vulnerable to risk,” joint lead author Dr. Shakti Lamba said in the release.
In fact, that’s exactly what New Yorker writer and best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell said with regard to the 2008 financial crisis at the 2009 New Yorker Summit. “What’s going on on Wall Street isn’t the result of experts failing to act as experts: It’s the result of experts acting exactly as experts act. It’s not a result of incompetence, it’s a result of overconfidence.”
Source: Lamba S, Nityananda V. Self-Deceived Individuals Are Better at Deceiving Others. PLOS ONE. 2014.