A new scientific study suggests that overconfidence may actually improve your success rate. It's been somewhat of a mystery to evolutionary biologists as to why so many people are overconfident or narcissistic when those traits tend to result in dangerously wrong expectations and bad decisions. Dominic Johnson of the University of Edinburgh and UC San Diego's James Fowler, co-author of the terrific book Connected
, used a evolutionary game theory and a computer simulation to study human competition and strategy. From National Geographic:
The results, published today in the journal Nature, showed that overconfidence pays off only when there is uncertainty about opponents' real strengths, and when the benefits of the prize at stake is sufficiently larger than the costs.
"So let's say you and I are fighting over some resource," Johnson said. "As long as there is some uncertainty about the outcome and the resource is valuable compared with the costs incurred in fighting for it, then overconfidence is the best strategy."
For instance, if people are fighting over an island with oil reserves, the benefit of accessing the oil might be a hundred billion dollars, while the costs of the war might be ten billion.
But if "if the cost of conflict or competition is high, and all for a fairly worthless prize—you're much better off being cautious."
Johnson compares the survival of overconfidence as a primary human trait to our outmoded cravings for high-calorie food—"a consequence of a preference that was useful to us in the past" when calories were scarce "but [that] goes wrong when there's a McDonald's on every corner."
"Evolution of Narcissism: Why We're Overconfident, and Why It Works
Where are our petabyte drives? Brian Hayes takes us through the reasons storage is “stuck” in the low terabytes. The tl;dr is that we got such exceptional capacity growth in the late 90s and early 00s we don’t need much more right now, so the focus since then has been on SSDs, networking, interfaces, etc, […]
Amélie Lamont, a former staffer at website-hosting startup Squarespace, writes that she often found herself disregarded and disrespected by her colleagues. One comment in particular, though, set her reeling — and came to exemplify her experiences there.
In this episode of the Flash Forward podcast we travel to a future where humans have decided to eradicate the most dangerous animal on the planet: mosquitos. How would we do it? Is it even possible? And what are the consequences? Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon We […]
You may not love Microsoft Word, but you’ve definitely used it. Other than being one of the most ubiquitous programs on the planet, it’s been the go-to word processing system for more than a quarter-century because it’s as basic as it gets. But occasionally, you’ve got assignments that beg for a lot more options than simple […]
Almost everyone has their smartphone in a case of one kind or another. Beyond simple protection, finding a case that can charge your phone on its own, but doesn’t feel like it’s also adding a couple pounds to the phone’s weight is the tricky part. Billed as the world’s thinnest battery case, the ThinCharge iPhone […]
You never know when new projects, ideas or opportunities can drop into your lap at a moment’s notice. That may require you to learn a new programming language like Python. Or maybe you need a primer on 3D game development. Or you might realize you could use a serious brush-up on iOS mobile creation.Point is, […]