Harbouring a mistakenly inflated belief that we can easily meet challenges or win conflicts is actually good for us, says a new study.
Researchers have for the first time shown that overconfidence beats accurate assessments in a wide variety of situations, be it sport, business or even war.
AdvertisementA team from the University of Edinburgh and the University of California, San Diego, used a mathematical model to simulate the effects of overconfidence over generations and pitted overconfident, accurate, and under confident strategies against each other.
This bold inflated belief approach frequently brings rewards, as long as the reward of the conflict is sufficiently large as compared to the cost of competing for them.
The inference that has been drawn is that over a long period of time the evolutionary principal of natural selection is likely to have favoured a bias towards overconfidence, wherein people with the mentality of someone like boxer Mohammad Ali would have left more descendents than those with the mindset of film maker Woody Allen.
The evolutionary model also showed that overconfidence becomes the greatest shield in the face of high levels of uncertainty and risk, when facing unfamiliar enemies or new technologies, overconfidence becomes an even better strategy.
"The model shows that overconfidence can plausibly evolve in wide range of environments, as well as the situations in which it will fail," Dr Dominic Johnson, reader in Politics and International Relations, said.
"The question now is how to channel human overconfidence so we can exploit its benefits while avoiding occasional disasters," he stated.
Conclusively, this bold approach also risks causing insurmountable havoc, just like the 2008 financial crash and the 2003 Iraq war, where extreme overconfidence backfired.
The paper has been published in Nature.