Beware the dangers of overconfidence

Overconfidence can sometimes be a dangerous characteristic, new research has suggested. To be presented at the American Psychological Association's 120th convention in Orlando, Florida, the study found that while such a trait often carries no harm, there are some occasions when it has serious consequences.

Joyce Ehrlinger, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, explained a doctor or lawyer who is overly sure of him or herself could give their patients or clients poor advice as a result.

The investigation showed social norms often make people refrain from giving individuals negative feedback to those who have put forward an opinion or made a joke.

Ms Ehrlinger observed: "There are ways in which overconfidence is dangerous and it might be important to set aside politeness in the service of helping people avoid the perils of overconfidence."

She added that although individuals should not stop being polite the majority of the time, there are occasions when a different approach is justified.

Dr Rob Yeung, Chartered Psychologist and a director at leadership consulting firm Talentspace, says:

"Overconfidence can be particularly damaging in organisations when individuals have such strong beliefs in their own ability that they take risks that aren't supported by the evidence. Overconfident people often also tend not to listen terribly well to constructive feedback about their failings or mistakes, with the result that they may not learn about their errors.

"For example, I once interviewed an executive for a job as the marketing director of a major electronics firm.  When I asked him the last time he had made a mistake, he honestly believed that the last time he'd been wrong or made a mistake at work had been more than five years ago!"