Why should anyone overestimate their skills

psychology Freshly learned and already an expert: Beginners tend to overestimate themselves

When it comes to overconfidence, early learning seems like a dangerous thing. Although beginners are modest in their self-perception at the beginning, a little experience is enough for their self-assessment to exceed their own performance.

Carmen Sanchez, David Dunning

The authors prove this theory on the basis of a total of six different partial studies.

Study find: "beginners bubble" of overconfidence

One of them was an experiment that sounds unusual at first: The test subjects were asked to imagine a post-apocalyptic world in which there was a zombie apocalypse. The researchers then asked them to analyze different photos of people for symptoms of zombie diseases and to make diagnoses, the psychologists write: "Although the beginners were not too confident with their assessments at the beginning, they quickly climbed into a kind of beginner's bubble overconfidence. " This led to the fact that, after just a few learning experiences, they had come up with excessive and false theories about how the task should be solved. "In further experiments, they changed and refined their theories, whereby self-confidence decreased again, while performance improved. After this break, the self-confidence of the test subjects also increased again," the study said.

Halle psychologist researches overconfidence

For psychologist Annegret Wolf from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the results of the US researchers are plausible. She, too, has been researching the so-called cognitive self-perception distortions, which include overestimation of oneself, for a long time. Above all, she finds the image of the "beginners' bubble" charming:

I think the metaphor is absolutely beautiful, because with soap bubbles we also associate such a colorful, optimistic world in which you can still see reality, but through such a filter. And now in this case it is very self-worthy. You feel protected and virtually float through everyday life.

Annegret Wolf, University of Halle

The current study fits in seamlessly with the results of previous studies on the subject, she says: "A lot of meta-analyzes have already been done and they show very robustly that people always assess themselves to be consistently more positive and more productive than they are." This can also be observed very well in everyday life, says Wolf. If, for example, the soccer World Cup starts again, there will be many fans again who would consider themselves the better national coach from the sofa - a classic case of overconfidence.

Young adults consider themselves real stock market experts

For their investigation, the US scientists didn't just want to look at isolated experiments. In another sub-study, they examined the question of whether people behave in real life as they would in a laboratory test. In fact, the researchers were able to demonstrate this pattern of overconfidence in everyday life, for example in the area of ​​finance. To do this, they analyzed data from the so-called National Financial Capability Survey. This is a large-scale study that has followed around 25,000 Americans over the years and examines how their knowledge of financial matters is developing. And the result was amazingly similar, the researchers write:

The self-assessment of how well one knows about financial matters rises rapidly among young adults, leveling off until late adulthood and only then do people assess themselves as good again - namely when they actually do in the course of their adulthood have acquired financial literacy slowly and consistently.

Carmen Sanchez, David Dunning

Overconfidence can be expensive

In fact, the results suggest that young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 are most significantly overestimating themselves when it comes to financial matters. And that can have extremely costly consequences. But overconfidence to a certain extent does not necessarily have to be harmful for us - on the contrary, says psychologist Annegret Wolf. Because it is actually a positive mechanism, "because it promotes our well-being," she says. "That's why we also talk about self-serving biases: Because it's about pushing your own self-esteem by simply assessing your performance as better." And of course that also has good effects: "If I now consider, for example, that I am applying for a job, although I may not actually be able, but think that I am, then I just apply and then get it maybe even."

The impostor feeling: the impostor phenomenon

But not only the tendency to overestimate oneself lies in human nature, but also at the other extreme: some people tend to underestimate themselves despite their competence. In the worst case, this can lead to depression - in the better case it only results in a few missed opportunities in life. Psychology calls the impostor phenomenon, says Annegret Wolf from Martin Luther University.

This means that competent, really highly qualified people are not able to record objectively measurable successes such as school grades, job offers, recommendations or stable relationships for themselves. They always have the feeling that they are an intellectual impostor and that they will be exposed at some point.

Annegret Wolf, University of Halle

Where you overestimate and underestimate yourself

The impostor phenomenon is something that can often be seen in young professionals, says Wolf. In fact, underestimating and overestimating are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It is often the case that we overestimate ourselves when it comes to everyday things such as driving a car and underestimate ourselves when it comes to subject-specific things. It's not really clear where that comes from, says Wolf.

What's behind it?

Psychology suspects the causes on the one hand in early childhood experiences and on the other hand in the individual personality of the person. Overall, the "underestimators" tend to be in the minority, explains Wolf: "As a rule, society tends to show an overestimation of oneself: It is assumed that around 60 percent of people overestimate themselves and the rest tend to underestimate themselves. But even experts Those who really have expertise are not immune from overestimating themselves. "

Dunning-Kruger effect: The greatest useless people consider themselves particularly capable

One of the authors of the current US study on overconfidence among beginners continues his previous research with this work. As early as 1999, David Dunning discovered that the greatest useless people often consider themselves particularly capable. The study states:

People tend to think that their own abilities are inordinately good in many social and intellectual areas. The authors suggest that this overestimation is in part due to the fact that people who are unqualified in these areas carry a double burden: Not only do these people draw wrong conclusions and make unfortunate decisions, but their incompetence also leads them to do so can't even notice.

David Dunning, Justin Kruger

This study is now considered a classic in psychology. According to Dunning and his co-authors, the self-overestimation of the incompetent is also known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

This effect is often referred to as "ignorance of one's own incompetence", says Halle psychologist Annegret Wolf. In addition, it is also the case that such people not only overestimate their own competence, but also underestimate that of other people.

A good example of this can be seen every year at prime time, she says: "So you just have to turn on the television and watch the participants of casting shows: that's the best publicity for the Dunning-Kruger Effect. People notice Not at all that they are completely wrong in their assessment, cannot sing at all, for example, and that they also do not understand the negative feedback at all. "