Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Science Proves Self-Deception is the Best Strategy

In a new study published in PLOS ONE, evidence is presented that a person who deceives themselves as to their talent and knowledge, and thus is more self-confident, is more likely to be judged by their peers as actually being more talented and thus are more successful than they deserve to be.

The converse is also true. According to this study, if you have low self-esteem, you are judged less talented by your peers and receive correspondingly fewer opportunities, promotions and so forth.

This is an interesting wrinkle on the “fools may go where wise people fear to tread” meme and suggests that the best way to get opportunity and get ahead in life is to be blindingly self-confident beyond all reason and experience.

The problem with this strategy comes when one tries to fake being unreasonably self-confident. Those who are merely deluded are the stronger type because they genuinely believe their bullshit, believe they are God's gift to ... whatever, and thus go further than someone who merely pretends to be delusional and has unreasonable self-confidence. Those that try to fake their delusional self-confidence are not as good at it, apparently, as those who are insane and thus are less likely to be promoted.

This is bitter tea. Many of us would try to fake delusional and unreasonable self-confidence if we thought it would help us, but the evidence does not support this approach. Merely faking it but not actually believing it fails to be convincing to your fellow biped mammals whose judgment you seek to influence.   

But there is a wrinkle that might be an effective strategy. Apparently these self-deluded and successful individuals are also more likely to overestimate the talent and potential of their coworkers. Thus if you feel stymied in your career, and want to get ahead, then by going to work for a deluded and over-confident manager is a way to possibly be given opportunities that you would not otherwise receive or merit.

The conclusion therefore is for all of us to find the most delusional and unreasonably self-confident people we know and go to work for them.

The abstract of the paper is below.

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