People trust confidence

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The research… shows that we prefer advice from a confident source, even to the point that we are willing to forgive a poor track record. Moore argues that in competitive situations, this can drive those offering advice to increasingly exaggerate how sure they are. And it spells bad news for scientists who try to be honest about gaps in their knowledge.

…Moore said that following the advice of the most confident person often makes sense, as there is evidence that precision and expertise do tend to go hand in hand. …

There are times, however, when this link breaks down. With complex but politicised subjects such as global warming, for example, scientific experts who stress uncertainties lose out to activists or lobbyists with a more emphatic message.

So if honest advice risks being ignored, what is a responsible scientific adviser to do? “It’s an excellent question, and I’m not sure that I have a great answer,” says Moore.

From this article.

I know there have been times when I’ve been swayed too much by people’s over-confidence (for example, religious leaders/preachers). Lack of confidence in myself has let me down in a lot of situations, too (for example, job interviews). That first sentence is depressing because it means the rich (in confidence) get richer and the poor get poorer. Catch-22.

Obviously confidence can be worked on and this is something I’m seeing, as per my last post. But what do you do about over-confident people? Confidence should ultimately bow to reason, and as long as the most reasonable arguments are presented confidently, I think they should win out, even if they are “negative”. Positive weak arguments only survive because (i) they are somehow avoiding being exposed to counter-arguments; maybe certain scientific communities are too isolated (all the wacky earthquake prediction stuff doesn’t get reviewed by anyone outside of that field?) and (ii) the media gives them a disproportionate amount of attention (stories about predicting earthquakes through the behaviour of snakes are just more interesting than stories about not being able to predict them).

On a more personal note, you have to have confidence before you can even sit down and work out what you think, and sometimes I lack even the ability to do that.

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2 responses »

  1. I think it’s a product of upbringing and really awfully hard to completely turn around sweetie. I hate to be pessimistic, but I think there’s no amount of counseling that can change some of our feelings about this matter. I’m hoping that old age does the trick 🙂 Love you and sorry for not being very uplifting. I agree people trust confident people.

  2. I agree, I’m coming to the conclusion that I have to respect the type of person I am and choose a job that suits the type of person I am. Rather than keep hoping I can just change. Life’s too short! Thanks for commenting Lisa xx

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