Realistic lack of confidence

Shyness_Of_angel copyMany researchers have duplicated the finding that women are more likely to show less confidence than men. Women are told if they want to make their mark in  any field they need to believe in themselves and show confidence like men do.[1] But that may not be best tactic to pursue.

Research showing disparity of confidence based on gender is frequently structured as follows. Men and women of a similar background or education level are given a task, followed by an inquiry of how well they did. Women typically underestimated their performance. But the average male does not correctly estimated his, either. The majority of men are over confident, assuming that they performed better than they actually did. In research based on math problems, Ernesto Reuben, a professor at Columbia Business School, found men consistently rated work about 30 percent better than their real scores.[2]

This trend also occurs in the daily life and the workplace in areas of math, technology, business and finance. Overconfidence doesn’t consistently lead men to success. Overconfident investors trade more often. The average turnover rate of common stocks for men is nearly one and a half times higher than for women. As a result, men reduce profits unnecessarily.[3] University College London research observe that investments run by less confident, and more conservative female managers outperform those run by male managers.[4]

So why do men continue to show overconfidence in face of decreasing results? Ernesto Reuben’s research found that the men who over-rated their ability seem to have honestly convinced themselves that they were better at math than they actually were. Women tend to deviate from the truth by flattering others to make themselves more likable while secretly discrediting others. They used social deception covertly, rather than embellishing their own accomplishments.[5]

Other research has found that more people have high regard for men with unrealistic confidence, despite the cost of this trait.[6] The logical conclusion would be men are rewarded for making unwarranted claims concerning their ability, otherwise they would not keep doing it. Ironically, women are criticized for being “overconfident” and as a result underplay their abilities. The reason for lack of women’s at the top of fields may not be lack of confidence. It may be because as women they simply do not receive the same advantages as men do. According to a recent article in Bloomsberg: “In other words, the “lack of confidence” women display may just be a cold realism, not an inherent character trait.”[7]

Photo by Sureshbmani – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
[3] Barber B, Odean T. Boys will be boys: Gender, overconfidence, and common stock investment. Quart J Econ. 2001; 116: 261–292.
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1 Response to Realistic lack of confidence

  1. knlistman says:

    Reblogged this on Write about what? and commented:

    When confidence is not rewarded…

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