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A Status-Enhancement Account of Overconfidence

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In explaining the prevalence of the overconfident belief that one is better than others, prior work has focused on the motive to maintain high self-esteem, abetted by biases in attention, memory, and cognition. An additional possibility is that overconfidence enhances the person's social status. We tested this status-enhancing account of overconfidence in 6 studies. Studies 1-3 found that overconfidence leads to higher social status in both short- and longer-term groups, using naturalistic and experimental designs. Study 4 applied a Brunswikian lens analysis (Brunswik, 1956) and found that overconfidence leads to a behavioral signature that makes the individual appear competent to others. Studies 5 and 6 measured and experimentally manipulated the desire for status and found that the status motive promotes overconfidence. Together, these studies suggest that people might so often believe they are better than others because it helps them achieve higher social status. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).
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Running head: STATUS-ENHANCEMENT ACCOUNT OF OVERCONFIDENCE
Astatus‐enhancementaccountofoverconfidence
CameronAnderson
UniversityofCalifornia,Berkeley
SebastienBrion
UniversityofNavarra
DonA.MooreandJessicaA.Kennedy
UniversityofCalifornia,Berkeley
PUBLISHEDINTHEJOURNALOFPERSONALITYANDSOCIALPSYCHOLOGY
AuthorNote
CameronAnderson,HaasSchoolofBusiness,UniversityofCalifornia,Berkeley;
SebastienBrion,IESEBusinessSchool,UniversityofNavarra;DonA.Moore,HaasSchoolof
Business,UniversityofCalifornia,Berkeley;JessicaA.Kennedy,HaasSchoolofBusiness,
UniversityofCalifornia,Berkeley.
CorrespondenceshouldbesenttoCameronAnderson,HaasSchoolofBusiness,
UniversityofCalifornia,Berkeley,545StudentServicesBuilding#1900,Berkeley,CA
94720‐1900.Email:anderson@haas.berkeley.edu
STATUS-ENHANCEMENT ACCOUNT OF OVERCONFIDENCE
Abstract
Inexplainingtheprevalenceoftheoverconfidentbeliefthatoneisbetterthanothers,prior
workhasfocusedonthemotivetomaintainhighself‐esteem,abettedbybiasesin
attention,memory,andcognition.Anadditionalpossibilityisthatoverconfidenceenhances
theperson’ssocialstatus.Wetestedthisstatus‐enhancingaccountofoverconfidenceinsix
studies.Studies1through3foundoverconfidenceleadstohighersocialstatusinboth
shortandlonger‐termgroups,usingnaturalisticandexperimentaldesigns.Study4applied
aBrunswikian(1956)lensanalysisandfoundthatoverconfidenceleadstoabehavioral
signaturethatmakestheindividualappearcompetenttoothers.Studies5and6measured
andexperimentallymanipulatedthedesireforstatusandfoundthatthestatusmotive
promotesoverconfidence.Together,thesestudiessuggestthatpeoplemightsooften
believetheyarebetterthanothersbecauseithelpsthemachievehighersocialstatus.
Keywords:overconfidence,self‐perception,status,power,groups,person‐perception
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
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AStatus‐EnhancementAccountofOverconfidence
Thepervasivenessofoverconfidenceissomewhatpuzzling.Individualsnot
onlytendtohavepositiveself‐perceptions,theyoftenbelievetheyaremore
talentedandcompetentthanothers,evenwhentheyarenot(forreviews,seeAlicke
&Govorun,2005;Dunning,Heath,&Suls,2004).Tomentionjustafewexamples,
individualstendtooverplacetheiroccupationalabilities(Haun,Zeringue,Leach,&
Foley,2000),socialskills(Swann&Gill,1997),andphysicaltalentsrelativetothose
ofothers(Dunning,Meyerowitz,&Holzberg,1989;forexceptions,seeKruger&
Burrus,2004;Moore&Small,2007).Thepropensityforoverconfidenceispuzzling
becausebeingabletoaccuratelyplaceone’sabilitiesrelativetothoseofothersis
clearlyuseful(e.g.,Alicke,1985;Dunningetal.,2004;Larrick,Burson,&Soll,2007).
Recognizingone’slimitationswouldhelppeoplesetmorerealisticgoals(Ehrlinger
&Dunning,2003),avoidcontestsonewilllose(Camerer&Lovallo,1999),andselect
strategiesthatfacilitatesuccess(Neale&Bazerman,1985),forexample.
Sowhywouldindividualsformoverlypositivejudgmentsoftheirabilities?
Scholarshavemostlyofferedtwoexplanations.Thefirstexplanationpositsa
motivatedbias:Individualsaredriventobeconfidentbecauseitprovidesthemwith
psychologicalbenefits(Dunning,Leuenberger,&Sherman,1995;Kunda,1987).For
example,self‐confidencecanimproveself‐esteem(Alicke,1985),mentalhealth
(Taylor&Brown,1988),andtaskmotivationandpersistence(Pajares,1996).The
secondexplanationhighlightsthecognitiveprocessesthatmaysometimesproduce
directionalbiases.Peoplemightsimplybeunabletoaccuratelyassesstheirown
competenceandarriveatbiasedself‐viewsfromfairlymundanejudgment
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
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processes.Forexample,biasedself‐viewscanarisesimplybecausepeoplearemore
likelytoattendtosuccessthanfailure(Miller&Ross,1975),becausetheymaylack
thecompetencetounderstandtheirownincompetence(Kruger&Dunning,1999),
andbecausetheymayholdidiosyncraticdefinitionsofsuccessorability(Dunninget
al.,1989;Santos‐Pinto&Sobel,2005).
Athirdpossibility,whichhasreceivedlittleempiricalattention,isthat
overconfidenceprovidestheindividualwithsocialbenefits.Anumberofscholars
havetheorizedthatbiasedself‐perceptionsmayhelptheindividualsucceedsocially
(Alexander,1987;Krebs&Denton,1997;Leary,2007;Trivers,1985;vonHippel&
Trivers,2011;Waldman,1994).Morespecifically,thesetheoriesproposethat
overlypositiveself‐viewshelpindividualsconvinceothersthattheyaremore
capablethantheyactuallyare.Therefore,thisaccountpositsoverconfidencetobea
motivatedbias.However,unlikeprevioustheories,itproposesthatoverconfidence
ismotivatedbythedesireforsocialsuccessinadditiontothedesirefor
psychologicalbenefitssuchashigherself‐esteem.
Consistentwiththisaccount,weofferandtestaseriesofhypotheses
regardingoverconfidenceandtheattainmentofsocialstatus.Specifically,we
proposethatoverconfidencepervadeshumanself‐judgmentbecauseithelps
individualsattainhighersocialstatus.Socialstatusistherespect,prominence,and
influenceindividualsenjoyintheeyesofothers(Anderson,John,Keltner,&Kring,
2001;Berger,Cohen,&Zelditch,1972;Goldhamer&Shils,1939).Highersocial
statuscomeswithahostofbenefitsincludingcontrolovergroupdecisions,access
toscarceresources,andreproductivesuccess(Bergeretal.,1972;Blau,1964;Ellis,
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
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1994;Griskevicius,Tybur,&VandenBergh,2010;Keltner,Gruenfeld,&Anderson,
2003;Savin‐Williams,1979).Thedesireforhighstatusiswidelyconsidereda
universalhumanmotive(Buss,1999;Maslow,1943;Tay&Diener,2011).
Weconductedsixstudiesthattestedthreemainhypotheses.Thefirst
hypothesisisthatoverconfidencehelpsindividualsachievehigherstatusinsocial
groups.Thesecondhypothesisisthatoverconfidenceleadstostatusbecauseit
makesindividualsappearcompetenttoothers,evenwhentheylackcompetence.
Studies1through3testedthesetwohypothesesbyexaminingtaskdyadsand
groups,usingbothnaturalisticandexperimentaldesigns.Study4useda
Brunswikian(1956)lensanalysistoexaminevideorecordingsofoverconfident
individuals’behavior.Thethirdhypothesisisthatthedriveforsocialstatus
promotesoverconfidence.Studies5and6testedthishypothesisbymeasuringand
experimentallymanipulatingthedesireforstatusandobservingitseffecton
overconfidence.
DefiningandConceptualizingOverconfidence
 Generally,overconfidenceisdefinedasinaccurate,overlypositive
perceptionsofone’sabilitiesorknowledge(forareview,seeMoore&Healy,2008).
Individualscanbeoverconfidentinanumberofways.Forinstance,peoplecan
overestimatetheirabilitiesorperformancerelativetoobjective,operationalcriteria
(e.g.,Buehler,Griffin,&Ross,1994;Krueger&Wright,2011;).Alternatively,people
canbeoverconfidentbyoverplacingthemselvesrelativetoothers–thatis,when
theybelievetheyarebetterthanothers,evenwhentheyarenot(e.g.,Krueger&
Mueller,2002;Kruger&Dunning,1999;Larricketal.,2007).Individualsare
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
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overconfidentwhentheybelievetheyaremorecompetentthanobjectivemeasures
indicate,orwhentheythinktheyarebetterthanotherstoagreaterextentthanthey
actuallyare.
Overconfidenceisthereforedifferentfromself‐presentationandimpression
management,whichinvolvedeliberateattemptstopresentoneselfinapositivelight
(Baumeister,1982;Goffman,1959;Leary&Kowalski,1990;Paulhus,1984).Self‐
presentationandimpressionmanagementinvolvemodifyingone’sovertsocial
behaviors,oftenconsciouslyanddeliberately.Individualswhomanagetheir
impressionsmightormightnotbelievetheimpressiontheyaretryingtoconveyto
others.Incontrast,overconfidenceisagenuineyetflawedperceptionofone’sown
abilities(seevonHippel&Trivers,2011).Overconfidencecanpersistevenwhenthe
stakesarehighandalignedtorewardaccuracy(Ehrlinger,Johnson,Banner,
Dunning,&Kruger,2008;Hoelzl&Rustichini,2005;Williams&Gilovich,2008).
TheEffectsofOverconfidenceonStatus
Priorresearch.Totesttheargumentthatoverconfidencepervadesself‐
judgmentbecauseithelpsindividualsattainstatus,itwascriticaltofirstexamine
whetheroverconfidenceindeedhelpsindividualsattainsocialstatus.Thoughan
abundanceofresearchhasexaminedoverlypositiveself‐perceptions,studieshave
notadequatelytestedwhetheroverconfidenceleadstohigherpeer‐perceived
competenceandstatus(vonHippel&Trivers,2011).Moreover,theevidence
relevanttothisquestionhasprovidedhighlymixedresults.
Intheoverconfidenceliterature,scholarshavefocusedlargelyonmistakesin
decision‐makingandtheirimplicationsforperformanceoreconomicoutcomes
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
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(Barber&Odean,2000;Cheng,2007;Camerer&Lovallo,1999;Koellinger,Minniti,
&Schade,2007;Malmendier&Tate,2005;Odean,1998;Odean,1999).Littlework
hasaddressedtheinterpersonalconsequencesofoverconfidence,suchasthe
impactofoverconfidenceonpeer‐ratedcompetenceorstatus(vonHippel&Trivers,
2011).
OtherworkhasexaminedoverlypositiveperceptionsusingwhatKwanand
colleaguescalledasocialcomparisonapproach,whichcomparesindividuals’self‐
perceptionstotheirperceptionsofothers(cf.Bonanno,Field,Kovacevic,Kaltman,
2002;Kwan,John,Kenny,Bond,&Robbins,2004;;Taylor&Brown,1988;Taylor,
Lerner,Sherman,Sage,&McDowell,2003).Accordingtothisapproach,individuals
possessoverlypositiveviewsiftheybelievetheyarebetterthanothers.However,
thosestudieshavenotoftendistinguishedinaccurate,overlypositiveself‐
perceptionsfromthosethatarejustifiablypositive(cf.Kwanetal.,2004;Tayloret
al.,2003).Therefore,peopleinthosestudieswhobelievedtheywerebetterthan
othersmighthaveinfactbeenbetterthanothers.Itiscriticaltoassesswhether
inaccurateself‐perceptionsperseleadtothosebenefits.
Stillotherscholarshaveexaminedoverlypositiveself‐perceptionsusing
whatKwanandcolleaguescalledaselfinsightapproach,whichcompares
individuals’self‐perceptionstoothers’perceptionsofthem(Anderson,Srivastava,
Beer,Spataro,&Chatman,2006;Colvin,Block,&Funder,1995;John&Robins,
1994;Paulhus,1998;Robins&Beer,2001).Inthisapproach,individualswhoseself‐
perceptionsareloftierthanothers’perceptionsofthemareconsideredtopossess
overlypositiveself‐views.Yetthosestudiesaddressedadifferentphenomenonthan
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
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theoneinwhichweareinterested.Namely,theyfocusedontheconsequencesof
possessingself‐perceptionsthataremorepositivethanothers’impressions.In
contrast,weareinterestedininaccurate,overlypositiveself‐perceptionsofability
andhowtheyimpactothers’impressions.
Totestourhypotheses,overconfidencewouldideallybemeasuredby
comparingself‐perceptionstooperationalcriteria–thatis,unambiguous,concrete
indicesofability.Forexample,anidealmeasureoftaskabilitywouldinvolvetest
scores,andameasureofscholasticabilitywouldinvolvegrades(cf.Paulhus,Harms,
Bruce,&Lysy,2003).Theuseofoperationalcriteriadirectlyassessestheaccuracy
ofself‐perceptionsofcompetenceandthusisstandardpracticeinthe
overconfidenceliterature(e.g.,Krueger&Mueller,2002;Kruger&Dunning,1999;
Larricketal.,2007;Moore&Healy,2008).Operationalindicesalsohelpavoidsome
ofthecomplicationsofusingpeer‐ratingsasbothabenchmarkofrealityandasa
dependentvariable,suchasthepossibilityofspuriouscorrelationsdrivenby
commonmethodvariance(seeZuckerman&Knee,1996).
Overconfidence,peerratedcompetence,andsocialstatus.We
hypothesizedthatoverconfidencehelpsindividualsattainhighersocialstatus
becauseithelpsthemappearmorecompetentintheeyesofothers,evenwhenthey
lackcompetence.Howmightthiseffectoccur?Individuals’competenceresides
withinthemandishiddenfromothers.Peoplearethusoftenforcedtojudgeothers’
abilitiesbasedonsuperficialcuessuchasnonverbalbehavior,appearance,orstyle
ofspeaking.Forexample,individualsareperceivedasmorecompetentwhenthey
expresstheirideasmore,appearmoreconfidentintheiranswers,andexhibita
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
7
calmerandmorerelaxeddemeanor(Anderson&Kilduff,2009;Carli,LaFleur,&
Loeber,1995;Driskell,Olmstead,&Salas,1993;Imada&Hakel,1977;Radzevick&
Moore,2011;Reynolds&Gifford,2001;Ridgeway,1987;Tiedens&Fragale,2003).
Priorworksuggestsindividualswithhigherself‐perceptionsofcompetence
shoulddisplaymoreofthese“competencecues”intheirinteractionswithothers
(Baumeister,Campbell,Krueger,&Vohs,2003).Self‐perceptionsareapowerful
driverofsocialbehavior(e.g.,Swann,2005)andindividualswhobelievetheyare
competentshouldexhibitmorecompetencecues.
Moreover,evenoverlypositiveself‐perceptionsofability,oroverconfidence,
shouldleadindividualstodisplaymorecompetencecues.Self‐perceivedabilities
candetermineone’sbehavioraboveandbeyondone’sactualabilities(Bugental&
Lewis,1999;Campbell,Goodie,&Foster,2004;McNulty&Swann,1994;vonHippel
&Trivers,2011).Thissuggeststhatwhenindividualsperceivethemselvesashighly
competent–eveniftheylackcompetence–theyarelikelytoexhibitmore
competencecueswheninteractingwithothers.Therefore,insituationswherethere
isambiguityabouttheindividual’scompetence(whicharetypical;Moore&Healy,
2008),holdingactualcompetenceconstant,overconfidentindividualsshouldbe
perceivedasmorecompetentbyothers,comparedtoindividualswithmore
accurateself‐perceptionsofcompetence.
Tobeclear,wedonotarguethatthereisanythinguniqueabout
overconfidencepersethatleadsindividualstobeperceivedasmorecompetentby
others.Ahighlevelofunjustifiedconfidence(i.e.,overconfidence)shouldleadthe
individualtoexhibitmorecompetencecues,justasahighlevelofjustified
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
8
confidencedoes.Intheeyesoftheobserver,itisdifficulttodifferentiatejustified
fromunjustifiedconfidence.
Inturn,onceindividualsareperceivedtopossesshighercompetence,they
arelikelytobeaffordedhigherstatus.Althoughthecharacteristicsthatcanleadto
higherstatusaremultifaceted,aprimaryandconsistentpredictorofstatusin
groupsisperceivedcompetence(e.g.,Bergeretal.,1972;Driskell&Mullen,1990;
Lord,DeVader,&Alliger,1986).Ingeneral,groupsgivehigherstatustoindividuals
whoexhibitabilitiesthatwillhelpthegroupsucceed(Bergeretal.,1972;Eibl‐
Eibesfeldt,1989;Emerson,1962;Goldhamer&Shils,1939).Becausecompetent
individualscanprovideimportantcontributionstothegroup’ssuccess,theyare
givenhigherstatus.
Insum,wehypothesizethatoverconfidentindividualswillbeperceivedby
othersasmorecompetent,andinturnwillachievehigherstatusingroups,than
individualswithaccurateself‐perceptionsofability.Stateddifferently,ifPersonsA
andBhaveequallevelsofactualability,butPersonAhashigherconfidencethan
PersonB,PersonAwillbeseenasmorecompetentandwillattainhigherstatus
thanPersonB,evenifPersonA’sconfidenceisunjustified.
TheDesireforStatusasaPredictorofOverconfidence
Theargumentthatoverconfidencebiasesself‐judgmentbecauseithelpsthe
individualattainsocialstatusimpliesthatthehumandriveforstatuspromotes
overconfidence.Totestthisidea,weexaminedwhetherthedesireforstatusleadsto
higherlevelsofoverconfidence.
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
9
Asmentionedearlier,statuscomeswithahostofsocialbenefits,including
respect,influence,andsocialsupport(Bergeretal.,1972;Blau,1964;Ellis,1994;
Griskeviciusetal.,2011;Gruenfeld&Tiedens,2010).Correspondingly,many
theoristshavearguedthatthedesireforhigherstatusisafundamentaldriverof
humanbehavior(Barkow,1975;Buss,1999;Hogan,1983;Maslow,1943).However,
evenifthedesireforstatusispervasive,therearealsodifferencesacross
individualsinthedegreetowhichtheywanthigherstatus(Jackson,1999;Josephs,
Sellers,Newman,&Mehta,2006;SchmidMast,Hall,&Schmid,2010;Smith,
Wigboldus,&Dijksterhuis,2008).Someindividualsdesirestatusmorethanothers.
Thisinter‐individualvariationallowsfortestingtheassociationbetweenthedesire
forstatusandoverconfidence.Accordingly,wetestedwhetherindividual
differencesinthedesireforstatuspredictdifferencesinoverconfidence.
Priorworkhasnotyettestedtheassociationbetweenthedesireforstatus
andoverconfidence.Indeed,researchthathasexaminedlinksbetween
overconfidenceanddispositionalvariables,suchaspersonalitytraits,hasyielded
mixedresults.Somestudieshavefoundpositiverelationshipsbetweenpersonality
andoverconfidence(e.g.,Schaefer,Williams,Goodie,&Campbell,2004),while
othershavefoundnulleffects(e.g.,Stankov&Crawford,1997;Wright&Phillips,
1979).Moreover,toourknowledge,noonehasyetmanipulatedthedesirefor
statusandobserveditseffectsonoverconfidence.Thus,weexaminedtherelation
betweendesireforstatusandoverconfidenceusingbothnaturalisticand
experimentaldesigns.
Study1
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
10
Study1addressedwhetheroverconfidentindividualsareperceivedtobe
morecompetentbyothersandwhethertheyattainhigherstatus.Totestthese
hypotheses,weexamineddyadsthatworkedtogetheronalaboratorytask.We
measuredthethreeconstructsofinterest–overconfidence,peer‐perceived
competence,andstatus–usingestablishedmethodsfromtheliterature.
Basedonpreviousresearchonoverconfidence,weusedageography
knowledgetask(Ehrlinger&Dunning,2003).Wefirstmeasuredparticipants’
overconfidencebyhavingthemcompletethegeographytaskindividuallyand
comparedtheirself‐perceivedperformancetotheiractualperformance(e.g.,
Ackerman,Beier,&Bowen,2002;Ames&Kammrath,2004;Jones,Panda,&
Desbiens,2008;Krueger&Mueller,2002;Kruger&Dunning,1999;Larricketal.,
2007;Moore&Small,2007).Wethenpairedparticipantsindyads,whereinthey
workedonthesamegeographytasktogether.Basedonthestatusliterature,we
collectedpeer‐assessmentsofcompetenceandstatusafterthedyadicinteraction
(e.g.,Anderson&Kilduff,2009;Bales,Strodtbeck,Mills,&Roseborough,1951;
Bergeretal.,1972;Driskell&Mullen,1990;Ridgeway,1987).
Method
Participants.Participantswere76undergraduatestudentsataWestCoast
universitywhoweredividedinto38dyads.Theyreceived$15fortheir
participation.
Procedure.Inthefirstphaseofthesession,participantswerepresented
withablankmapofNorthAmerica.Thismapcontainedasmallamountof
topographicalinformation(e.g.,riversandlakes),butcontainednoinformation
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
11
aboutstateornationalborders.Participantsweregivenalistof15U.S.citiesand
askedtoindicatethelocationofeachcitybyplacingadotonthemap.Participants
weretoldthatadotthatlieswithin150miles(2.1cmtoscale)oftheactuallocation
ofacitywouldbeconsideredcorrect.Aftercompletingthetest,participantsrated
theirownperformanceonthetaskandU.S.geographicknowledgemoregenerally.
Participantswerenevertoldtheiractualperformanceonthetest.Inthesecond
phaseofthestudy,participantsworkedindyads.Theywererandomlypairedand
askedtocompletethesametaskasadyad.Morethantwoparticipantswere
scheduledforeachlaboratorysession,allowingustopairunacquaintedparticipants
together.Aftercompletingthedyadictask,participantsprivatelyratedtheir
partner’scompetenceandstatusinthedyad.
Overconfidence.Wemeasuredoverplacement,theoverestimationofone’s
abilityrelativetothatofothers.1Intheindividualtask,participantswereasked(a)
howtheycomparedtotheotherparticipantsinthestudyontheirgeneral
knowledgeofU.S.geography,and(b)howtheirtaskscorescomparedtothoseof
otherparticipants.Bothquestionswereratedonascalefrom1(I’matthevery
bottom;worsethan99%ofthepeopleinthisstudy)to100(I’mattheverytop;
betterthan99%ofthepeopleinthisstudy).”Thesetwoitemscorrelated,r(74)=
.92,p<.01,andwerecombinedtomeasureself‐perceivedpercentilerank.
Wescoredactualperformanceasdescribedabove.Thisdataforone
participantwerelost,leaving75participants’datafortheanalyses.Participants
showedreliabilityintheirperformanceacrossthecities,α=.66(M=6.84,SD=
2.85).Wetransformedtheirscoresintopercentilerankingstocomparetheirself‐
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
12
perceivedrankstotheiractualranks(whichcorrelatedwitheachother,r[73]=.56,
p<.001).
Asmanyscholarsrecommend,wemeasuredoverconfidencebyregressing
participants’actualperformanceontotheirself‐evaluationsandretainingthe
residualsoftheself‐evaluations(Cohenetal.,2003;Cronbach&Furby,1970;
DuBois,1957;John&Robins,1994).2Theresidualscorecapturesthevariabilityin
self‐perceivedrankafterthevariancepredictedbyactualrankhasbeenremoved.
Partnerratedcompetence.Afterparticipantsworkedindyads,they
rankedtheirpartner’sU.S.geographicknowledgerelativetootherparticipants’
(usingthesamepercentilerankscale).Participantsalsoratedtheaccuracyoftheir
partner'sknowledgeofU.S.GeographyonaLikert‐styleitem,onascalefrom1(Not
atallaccurate)to7(Veryaccurate).Thesetwoitemscorrelatedwitheachotherr
(74)=.52,p<.001,α=.69,andwerestandardizedandcombinedtoformameasure
ofpartner‐ratedtaskcompetence.
Status.Previoustheoreticalconceptionsofstatusingroupshaveidentified
statusasinvolvingrespect,influence,leadership,andperceivedcontributionstothe
group’sdecisions(e.g.,Andersonetal.,2006;Balesetal.,1951;Bergeretal.,1972;
Cohen&Zhou,1991).Whilethesecomponentscanbeconceptuallydistinguished
fromeachother(e.g.,Goldhamer&Shils,1939;Magee&Galinsky,2008),theytend
tocorrelatesohighlyingroupsthattheyarebestunderstoodascomprisingone
overarchingstatusconstruct(e.g.,Andersonetal.,2001;Anderson&Kilduff,2009;
Balesetal.,1951;Berger,Rosenholtz,&Zelditch,1980;Blau,1964;Ridgeway,
1987).Therefore,inthisstudy,eachparticipantratedthedegreetowhichhisorher
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
13
partnerdeservedrespectandadmiration,hadinfluenceoverthedecisions,ledthe
decision‐makingprocess,andcontributedtothedecisions.Eachofthesefouritems
wasratedonascalefrom1(Disagreestrongly)to7(Agreestrongly).Thesefour
itemscorrelatedtogether(α=.87)sowecombinedthemintoonemeasureofstatus,
M=4.88,SD=1.36.
ResultsandDiscussion
Becausedatacollectedindyadscanviolateassumptionsofindependence,we
testedourhypotheseswithastatisticaltechniqueoutlinedbyGonzalezandGriffin
(1997).Thisinvolvescalculatingthecorrelationbetweenthevariablesand
translatingthecorrelationintoaz‐scorethataccountsfordependenceinthedata
(alsoseeGriffin&Gonzalez,1995).
Partnerratedcompetence.Asexpected,overconfidencepredictedpartner‐
ratedcompetence,r(73)=.36(z=3.07,p<.01).Thissuggeststhatmore
overconfidentindividualswereperceivedasmorecompetentbytheirpartners,as
comparedtoindividualswithmoreaccurateself‐perceptions.Infact,
overconfidencehadasstrongarelationshipwithpartner‐ratedcompetenceasdid
actualability,r(73)=.39(z=3.44,p<.01).Itisimportanttonotethattheindexof
overconfidenceweemployedreflectsbiasinself‐perceptions.Consequently,the
observedcorrelationreflectstherelationshipbetweenpositivebiasinself‐
perceptionandothers’ratingsofone’sabilities.
Status.Overconfidencealsopredictedstatusinthedyad,r(73)=.26(z=
2.10,p<.05),suggestingthatoverconfidentindividualsachievedhigherstatusthan
individualswithmoreaccurateself‐perceptions.Again,therelationshipbetween
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
14
overconfidenceandstatuswasalmostasstrongasthatbetweenactualabilityand
status,r(73)=.33(z=2.71,p<.05).
Wethusexaminedwhethertherelationbetweenoverconfidenceandstatus
wasmediatedbypartners’ratingsofcompetence.Thismediationanalysisis
illustratedinFigure1.WeusedPreacherandHayes’(2008)bootstrapping
procedure.Weused1000resampleswithreplacementtoderivea95%confidence
bias‐correctedconfidenceintervalfortheindirecteffectofoverconfidenceonstatus
astransmittedviapartner‐ratedcompetence.Thisanalysisrevealedanindirect
effectof.018witha95%confidenceintervalrangingfrom.007–.032.Becausethe
intervalexcludeszero,thisindicatedastatisticallysignificantindirecteffect
(Preacher&Hayes,2008).Further,therelationbetweenoverconfidenceandstatus
wasreducedtozero(b*=.00,t=.025,ns)aftercontrollingforpartner‐rated
competence.Thissuggeststhattherelationbetweenoverconfidenceandstatusin
thedyadwasfullymediatedbypartner‐ratingsofcompetence.
Summary.Consistentwithourhypotheses,overconfidentindividualswere
perceivedasmorecompetentbytheirpartners.Moreover,thishigherpeer‐rated
competenceledoverconfidentindividualstoattainhigherstatusinthedyadictask.
Study2
Study2extendedthefindingsfromStudy1inseveralways.First,some
theoristshavesuggestedthattheinterpersonalbenefitsofoverlypositiveself‐
perceptionsarelimitedtoshort‐terminteractionsandthattheydisappearover
time,asindividualsgettoknoweachotherandobtainenoughevidencetoassess
whethereachperson’sconfidenceisjustified(Colvinetal.,1995;Tenney,Spellman,
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15
&MacCoun,2008).However,priorevidenceinsupportofthisargumentused
personalitytraitsandselfinsightmeasuresdescribedintheintroduction(Paulhus,
1998).Weexpectedthestatus‐relatedbenefitsofoverconfidencetoendureover
time.Otherwise,thestatus‐relatedbenefitsofoverconfidencewouldbesomewhat
limited,giventhelargeproportionoftimeindividualsspendinteractingwith
friends,colleagues,andcoworkers(i.e.,individualswithwhomoneisfamiliar).In
Study2,weassessedprojectteamsthatworkedcloselytogetherover7weeks.
Second,tofurthertesttherobustnessofourfinding,weusedadifferent
measureofoverconfidence–Paulhusandcolleagues’well‐validatedandwidely
usedOverClaimingQuestionnaire(OCQ;Paulhusetal.,2003).TheOCQisaclever
waytomeasureoverconfidenceinone’sbodyofknowledge.Itasksrespondentsto
ratetheirfamiliaritywithalistofitemssuchasfamousnames,events,orclothing
brands.Someoftheitemsarefoils,inthattheydonotactuallyexist.Themeasure
gaugestheextenttowhichindividualsoverclaim,orclaimknowledgeaboutnon‐
existentitems,andthusexhibitoverconfidenceintheirknowledge(Paulhusetal.,
2003).TheOCQwasidealforourpurposesbecauseitassessesoverconfidenceusing
operationalcriteria.Individualswhoclaimfamiliaritywithnonexistentitemsare
exhibitingadeparturefromreality,andoverconfidence.Indeed,theOCQcorrelates
withoverplacement(Paulhusetal.,2003).
Third,wewantedtoruleoutthepossibilitythatindividualdifferencesacted
asthirdvariables.Inparticular,confidencehasbeenassociatedwithhigherlevelsof
optimism(Wolfe&Grosch,1990),traitdominance(Gough,McClosky,&Meehl,,
1951),andextraversion(Schaeferetal.,2004),andlowerlevelsofneuroticism
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
16
(Costa&McCrae,1992).Eachofthesefourindividualdifferenceshasalsobeen
linkedtotheattainmentofstatus(Andersonetal.,2001;Lordetal.,1986;Stogdill,
1948).Therefore,wemeasuredeachoftheseindividualdifferences.
Fourth,wewantedtodemonstratethatgrantingstatustooverconfident
individualsisa“real”effect,inthatgroupmemberstrulybelievedthemtobe
worthy.Wethusutilized“life‐outcome”datainStudy2inadditiontopeer‐rated
status.Inthesestudentteams,partoftheirfinalgradeintheclasswasdetermined
bythegradegiventothembytheirteammates.Wetestedwhetheroverconfidence
wouldhelpindividualsachievehigherpeer‐assignedgradesaswellashigherstatus.
Method
Participants.Thestudy’sparticipantswerethe243membersofthefirst‐
yearMastersofBusinessAdministration(MBA)classataWestCoastbusiness
school(69%men).Participantsinthesamplehadbeenassignedtooneof48
groupsoffiveorsixpeoplebytheschoolatthebeginningoftheyear,withthegoal
ofmaximizingthediversityofeachgroupintermsofgender,race,culture,
disciplinarytraining,andworkexperience.
Procedure.Priortothefirstdayofclass,participantswereaskedviaemail
tocompleteanonlinesurveywithindividualdifferencemeasures.Overthecourse
oftheseven‐weekclass,studentsworkedintenselytogetherintheirgroupsto
completeacourseprojectthatwassubmittedonthefinaldayofclass.Thefinal
projectwasapaperonwhichthegroupcollaborated.Studentsworkedinthese
samegroupsforallfouroftheclassestheyweretakingatthatsametime.Twodays
afterthefinalclasssession,participantsreceivedalinktoanonlinesurveythat
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
17
askedthemtorateeachgroupmember.Wewereunabletomeasurepeer‐rated
competenceandthusfocusedonstatusintheteam.
Overconfidence.Priortothefirstdayofclass,participantscompleteda60‐
itemversionoftheOver‐ClaimingQuestionnaire(OCQ;Paulhusetal.,2003),which
askedthemtoratetheirfamiliaritywith60itemsinfourdifferentdomainsona
scalerangingfrom0(neverheardofit)to4(knowitverywell).Oneoutofeveryfive
itemswasafoil,inthatitwasbogus.WeusedPaulhusandcolleagues’(2003)
recommendedstrategyofscoringoverclaimingwithsignaldetectionanalysis.The
scoringroughlytranslatestothemeanofthehitrate(i.e.,theproportionoftimes
thepersoncorrectlyidentifiedanitemthatactuallyexists)andthefalse‐alarmrate
(i.e.,theproportionoftimesthepersonincorrectlyidentifiedanonexistentitemas
real),thuscapturingthetendencytosay“Yes,Irecognizethatitem”versus“No,I
don’trecognizethatitem.”Theover‐claimingindexwasreliable(α=.70).4
Toexaminetheeffectofactualknowledge,wealsoscoredparticipants’
accuracyontheOCQusingPaulhusetal.’s(2003)recommendedstrategythatalso
involvessignaldetectionanalysis.Accuracyisindexedbythenumberofhitsrelative
tothenumberoffalsealarms;individualsreceivepointsforaccuratehitsand
penaltiesforfalsealarms.Anaccurateindividual,then,isnottheonescoringthe
mosthitsbuttheoneshowingthebestabilitytodiscriminatebetweenexistentand
nonexistentitems.TheOCQaccuracyindexwasalsoreliable(α=.60).
Optimism.WemeasuredoptimismwithScheier,Carver,andBridges’s
(1994)six‐itemLifeOrientationTest‐Revised(α=.78).
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18
Dominance.Participantsratedtheirtraitdominancewiththe16itemsfrom
thedominanceandsubmissivenessscalesfromtheRevisedInterpersonalAdjective
Scales(IAS‐R;Wiggins,Trapnell,&Phillips,1988),α=.80.
BigFivepersonalitydimensions.Extraversioninvolvestraitssuchas
sociability,activity,andpositiveemotionality(John&Srivastava,1999).
Neuroticismreflectsindividualdifferencesinnegativeemotionality(Costa&
McCrae,1992).Tomeasurethesedimensions,weusedtheBigFiveInventory(BFI;
John&Srivastava,1999).Thereliabilitiesweresatisfactoryforextraversion(α=
.85)andneuroticism(α=.73).
Status.Duetospacelimitations,weaskedonestatusquestionattheendof
thesevenweeks:“Pleaseindicatehowmucheachgroupmemberinfluencedthe
group’sdecisions”ona1(verylittle)to7(agreatdeal)scale.Influenceisacore
componentofstatushierarchiesor“power‐prestige”ordersingroups;further,
individualsmustachieverespectandadmirationintheeyesofothers,ortheywill
notbegrantedinfluence(Blau,1964;Homans,1950;Ridgeway&Diekema,1989).
Thegroupmembers’ratingsofeachotherconstitutedaroundrobindesign,
soweusedthesoftwareprogramSOREMO(Kenny,1994)toimplementtheSocial
RelationsModel(SRM)analysesofthesepeerratings(Kenny&LaVoie,1984).We
foundsignificantpeeragreementinthesejudgments(relativetargetvariance=.74).
SOREMOcalculatesatargetscoreforeachparticipantoneachpeer‐rated
dimension.Thistargetscoreisessentiallytheaverageoftheratingsgiventothe
persononthatdimension,butSOREMOremovesgroupdifferencesfromtarget
scores,makingthemstatisticallyindependentofgroupmembership.Inaddition,we
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19
centeredallotherindividualdifferencevariablesaroundtheirgroupmeanto
controlforgroupeffects.(Wealsorantheanalyseswithnon‐centeredvariables;no
findingchangedfromstatisticallysignificanttonon‐significantorvice‐versa).
Peerassignedgrade.Eachindividualassignedagrade(AthroughF)toeach
othergroupmember.Gradeswerethencodedusinggradepoints(0‐4).
ResultsandDiscussion
AsshowninTable1,overconfidence(i.e.,over‐claiming)predictedinfluence
inthegroup,supportingourhypothesisthatoverconfidentindividualswouldhave
higherstatus,evenafterthegrouphadworkedtogetherforsevenweeks.Table1
presentscoefficientsfromamultipleregressionanalysisinwhichwepredicted
statuswithoverconfidenceandaccuracyontheOCQaswellastheaforementioned
fourindividualdifferencevariables.Thisfindinglendssomereassurancethatthe
relationbetweenoverconfidenceandstatuswasnotdrivenbyanyoftheseother
variables.Wealsotestedforapossiblecurvilineareffect,butthequadratictermina
multipleregressionwasagainnotsignificant,B=‐.04(SE=.03,n.s.).Asshownin
Table1,overconfidencealsopredictedthegradethatteammatesassignedtothe
individual,suggestingthatoverconfidentindividualsnotonlyattainedhigherstatus
butwerealsoassignedhighergradesbypeers.Theseresultsalsohelpfurther
establishthatoverconfidencehasconsequencesforoutcomesforwhichindividuals
careagreatdeal.
Study3
AlthoughStudy2addressedanumberofpossiblethird‐variable
explanations,inStudy3,wetooktheadditionalstepofusinganexperimentaldesign
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20
thatmanipulatedoverconfidence.Oneobviouswaytomanipulateoverconfidence
wouldbetopresentparticipantswithvignettesofindividualswhoexhibit
overconfidence(e.g.,Jones&Shrauger,1970;Powers&Zuroff,1986).However,this
methodmightsufferfromlowerexternalvalidity,asstudiessuggestthatconfident
individualsrarelydirectlyboastaboutthemselves(Anderson&Kilduff,2009).We
thusaimedtomanipulateoverconfidencemorerealistically,inactualindividuals
whothenworkedwithothersonjointtasks.
Previousresearchhasusedfalsefeedbackmanipulationstoshapethe
positivityofparticipants’self‐concept(e.g.,Harmon‐Jonesetal.,1997).Though
muchofthatworkprovidedfocusedonself‐esteem,wethusprovidedmorespecific
feedbackaboutabilitiesonaspecifictasktoinfluenceoverconfidenceonly.
Tomanipulateoverconfidence,weneededtofocusonself‐perceptionsof
abilitythatwouldbepossibletomanipulateinthelaboratory.Onesuchabilityis
personperception.Priorresearchsuggeststhatindividualstendtobelargely
unawareoftheirpersonperceptionaccuracy(e.g.,Ames&Kammrath,2004;
DePaulo,Charlton,Cooper,Lindsay,&Muhlenbruck,1997;Swann&Gill,1997).We
exploitedthisbygivingrandomlyselectedparticipantsoverlypositivefeedback
abouttheirpersonperceptionskills.Othersreceivedaccuratefeedback.
Method
Participants.Participantswereundergraduatestudents(N=80,53%
women)ataWestCoastuniversitywhoreceivedcoursecredit.Theparticipants
wereonaverage21yearsold(SD=1.0).Thesamplewas70%Asian‐American,
20%Caucasian,and10%whoreportedothertheirethnicities.
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21
Procedureanddesign.Thelaboratorysessionhadthreephases.Inthefirst
phase,participantsprivatelyviewedstillimagesof10individualsviacomputerand
judgedeachindividual’spersonalityon10items(Gosling,Rentfrow,&Swann,
2003).3Afterjudgingeachtarget,participantsestimatedtheirownperformance.
Tomanipulateself‐perceivedability,afterparticipantsjudgedthefirstfive
targets,thoserandomlyassignedtotheoverconfidentconditionreceivedoverly
positivefeedbackabouttheirperformanceuptothatpoint,whereasthoserandomly
assignedtotheaccurateconditionreceivedaccurateperformancefeedback.(We
administeredthisfeedbackhalfwaythroughtheindividualtasksowecouldcheck
itseffectivenessintheremainderoftheindividualtask.)
Inthesecondphaseofthesession,participantsintheoverconfidentcondition
wererandomlypairedindyadswithparticipantsintheaccurateconditionandthey
completedasimilarpersonperceptiontasktogether.Finally,dyadpartnerswere
separatedandprivatelyprovidedvariouspeer‐ratings.
Overconfidencemanipulation.FollowingSwannandGill(1997),
participantsweretoldthateachanswerwasconsideredcorrectifitwaswithin0.5
aboveorbelowthetarget’struescore.Participantsintheoverconfidentcondition
weretoldthattheyanswered37outof50responsescorrectlyonthefirstfive
targets.5Intheaccuratecondition,participantsweretoldtheactualnumberofitems
theyansweredcorrectlyforthefirstfivetargets,whichonaveragewas8.8outof50
(SD=3.03).Asuspicioncheckattheendofthestudyshowedthatnoparticipantin
eitherconditionsuspectedtheperformancefeedbacktobefalse.
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22
Toensurethatparticipantsinbothconditionsinterpretedtheirscoresusing
thesamemetric,wealsotoldthemthatattaining8correctanswerswasperforming
“aswellaschance(thesameasguessingrandomly),”andthatattaining32correct
answerswasperforming“extremelywell.”Toavoidthepossibilitythatdyad
partnerswouldsimplyexchangetheirfeedbackscores,participantswereinstructed
nottosharetheirscoreswiththeirpartner.Anexperimenterwaspresentwhile
dyadsworkedtogethertoensurenopartnersexchangedthisinformation.
Selfperceivedcompetence.AsinStudy1,intheindividualtask,
participantsestimatedtheirpercentilerankrelativetootherstudentsattheir
university.Beforeparticipantsweregivenperformancefeedback,theirestimatesof
theirownabilitieswerereliableacrossthefirstfivetargets(α=.93),andthus
combined.Aftertheyreceivedthefeedback,participants’estimatesoftheirown
abilitieswereagainreliableacrossthesecondsetoffivetargets(α=.96),andthus
combined.
Actualperformance.Wescoredparticipants’actualperformanceonthe
taskusingthemethoddescribedtothem.Participantsshowedreliabilityintheir
actualaccuracyacrosstargets,α=.71.Wethuscombinedtheirscoresacrossthe
targetstoformanoverallindexofactualability,andthentransformedtheir
performancescoresintopercentilerankingstoallowustoscoreoverplacement.
Partnerratedcompetence.Inthepeer‐ratingsphase,participants
estimatedtheirpartner’scompetenceonthetaskwithfouritems.First,theyused
thesamepercentile‐rankitemonwhichtheyassessedtheirownability.Toincrease
thereliabilityofthispeer‐rating,theyalsoratedtheirpartnerusingthreeitems
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
23
fromtheMind‐ReadingBeliefScale(Realoetal.,2003):“Astranger’scharacteris
revealedtomypartneratfirstsight,”“Itishardformypartnertotellaperson’s
thoughtsbytheirlooks,”and“Idonotthinkmypartnerisgoodatknowinghuman
nature/judgingpeople.”Thesethreeitemswereratedonascalefrom1(Disagree
strongly)to7(Agreestrongly).Afterstandardizingallitemsandreverse‐scoringthe
lattertwo,theycorrelatedtogether(α=.63)andthuscombined.
Statusinthedyad.Participantsratedtheirpartner’sstatusinthedyadwith
thesamefouritemsasinStudy1.Theitemmeasuringrespectandadmirationhada
lowitem‐totalcorrelation(.13)andwasexcludedfromthemeasure.Theremaining
threeitemsshowedsufficientreliability(α=.62)andthuscombined.
Stateselfesteem.Providingindividualswithpositivefeedbackaboutthe
selfcanboostself‐esteem(e.g.,Harmon‐Jonesetal.,1997).Toalleviatetheconcern
thatanyeffectsofthemanipulationmightbeduetoself‐esteemratherthanto
overconfidence,wemeasuredstateself‐esteeminthepeer‐ratingsphaseusing
HeathertonandPolivy’s(1991)20‐itemmeasure(α=.87).
ResultsandDiscussion
Manipulationcheck.Asexpected,arepeated‐measuresANOVAshowedthat
beforetheperformancefeedbackwasadministered,self‐perceivedrankingsin
competencedidnotdifferbetweenparticipantsintheoverconfidentcondition(M=
61.61,SD=14.84)andintheaccuratecondition(M=61.23,SD=14.76),F(1,39)=
.02,ns.Thusparticipantsinthetwoconditionsdidnotdifferinoverconfidence
beforethefeedbackwasadministered.
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
24
However,afterthefeedbackwasadministered,arepeated‐measuresANOVA
showedthatparticipantsintheoverconfidentconditionhadhigherself‐perceptions
oftheircompetencerelativetoothers’(M=62.82,SD=15.82)thandidparticipants
intheaccuratecondition(M=57.14,SD=15.25),F(1,39)=3.92,p=.05.Further,a
within‐subjectsANOVAshowedthatparticipantsintheoverconfidentcondition
overestimatedtheirranks,F(1,39)=17.37,p<.01,whereasparticipantsinthe
accurateconditiondidnot,F(1,39)=1.70,ns.Therefore,thefeedbackmanipulation
waseffective.Itisinterestingtonote,however,thattheoverconfidencecondition
didnotboostparticipants’overconfidence,butrather,allowedthemtoremain
overconfident.Theaccuracyconditionreducedparticipants’overconfidenceto
makethemmoreaccurate.
Finally,abetween‐subjectsANOVAshowedthatparticipantsinthe
overconfidentcondition(M=3.76,SD=0.58)reportedthesamelevelofstateself‐
esteemasparticipantsintheaccuratecondition(M=3.76,SD=.49),F(1,39)=.00,
ns.Thus,themanipulationhadthetargetedeffectonoverconfidencebutdidnot
affectstateself‐esteem.
Partnerratedcompetence.Arepeated‐measuresANOVAshowedthat
participantsintheoverconfidentconditionwereperceivedbytheirpartnersasmore
competentatthetask(M=.23,SD=0.63)thanparticipantsintheaccurate
condition(M=‐.25,SD=0.68),F(1,39)=13.20,p<.01.Thisprovidessomecausal
evidencethatoverconfidenceledtobeingperceivedasmoretaskcompetent.To
illustratethiseffectinamoreintuitiveway,wefocusedononeoftheitemsofthe
partner‐ratedcompetenceindex—thepartner’sratingoftheparticipant’spercentile
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
25
rank.WepresentthecomparisonacrossconditiononthisiteminFigure2.This
differencewassignificant,F(1,39)=4.85,p<.05,eventhoughparticipantsinthe
twoconditionsdidnotdifferinactualabilities,F(1,39)=.48,ns.
Status.Arepeated‐measuresANOVAshowedthatparticipantsinthe
overconfidentcondition(M=4.74,SD=0.85)alsoattainedhigherstatusinthedyad
thanparticipantsintheaccuratecondition(M=4.10,SD=0.88),F(1,39)=7.80,p<
.01.Therefore,thisprovidesevidencethatoverconfidenceledtoachievinghigher
status.
Wenextexaminedwhetherpartner‐ratedabilitymediatedtheeffectof
overconfidenceonstatususingamethodsuggestedbyJudd,Kenny,andMcClelland
(2001).Theregressioncoefficientofthedifferencescoreforthemediatorwas
significant(b=.44,SE=.26,b*=.26,p=.05),whichindicatespartner‐rated
competencemediatedtheeffectofoverconfidenceonstatus.Theinterceptwasalso
significant(b=.43,SE=.26,p=.05),indicatingtheeffectofoverconfidenceon
statuswasstillsignificant,controllingforthemediatingeffectofpartner‐rated
competence(Juddetal.,2001).Therefore,thissuggestsoverconfidenceledtostatus
inpartbecauseitledtobeingperceivedasmorecompetent.
Summary.Thepartnersofindividualsinducedtobeoverconfident
perceivedthemasmoretaskcompetentandaccordedthemhigherstatusthan
individualsintheaccuratecondition,whoweremoreaccurateintheirself‐
perceptionsofability.Study3usedanexperimentaldesignandthusprovidedmore
directevidencethatoverconfidenceledtohigherpeer‐perceptionsofcompetence,
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26
andinturn,higherstatus.Amediationanalysisconfirmedthattheeffectof
overconfidenceonstatuswaspartiallyexplainedbypeer‐perceptionsofability.
Study4
Studies1through3foundthatoverconfidentindividualsattainedhigher
statusbecausetheywereperceivedbyotherstobecompetent,evenwhenthe
impressionwasartifice.Butwhatexactlydooverconfidentindividualsdothat
makesthemappearcompetent?Study4examinedthebehavioraldisplaysof
overconfidentindividuals.
Inthisanalysis,weutilizedBrunswik’s(1956)lensmodelofhuman
perception.AccordingtoBrunswik’smodel,behavioralcuesdisplayedbyatarget
canserveasakindoflensthroughwhichobserversindirectlyperceivethetarget’s
innercharacteristics(seeFigure3).Forexample,someone’ssmilecouldserveasthe
lensthroughwhichanobserverinfersatarget’shighlevelofagreeableness.In
Brunswik’smodel,cueutilizationreferstothelinkbetweentheobservablecue(e.g.,
smile)andanobserver’sjudgment(e.g.,ofagreeableness).Ontheleftsideofthe
lens,wewillusethetermcuedisplaytorefertothelinkbetweenthetarget’sinner
characteristicandthebehavioralcue.Acorrelationbetweenaninnercharacteristic
(e.g.,agreeableness)andthedisplayofacue(e.g.,smile)indicatesthattheinner
characteristicpredictsthedisplayofthatcue(e.g.,thathigherlevelsof
agreeablenesspredictmoresmiles).
Wehypothesizedthatthebehavioralcuesdisplayedbyoverconfident
individualswouldmatchthebehavioralcuesobserversusetoinfercompetence.
Therefore,wewereprimarilyinterestedintwoquestions—whichbehavioralcues
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
27
areusedbyobserverstoinfercompetenceinothers,andwhichbehavioralcues
overconfidentpeopledisplay.Alonganexploratoryvein,wewerealsointerestedin
thebehavioralcuesdisplayedbyindividualswhoareactuallycompetent.Previous
researchhasshownthatobserversarenothighlyaccurateinperceivingothers’
competence(e.g.,Minson,Liberman,&Ross,2011).Onepossibilityisthatsuchlow
accuracyisduetolowcue‐displaycorrelationsforactualcompetence;inother
words,individualswhoareactuallycompetentmightnotdisplaythecuesthat
othersutilizetoinfercompetence.
Basedonasurveyofrelevantresearch(e.g.,Anderson&Kilduff,2009;Carli
etal.,1995;DePauloetal.,2003;Driskelletal.,1993;Imada&Hakel,1977;
Ridgeway,1987;Scherer,London,&Wolf,1973;Tracy&Robins,2004),we
hypothesizedthatobserverswouldutilizethedegreetowhichindividuals
contributedtothegroupdiscussion(e.g.,theamounttheyspoke,providedanswers
andopinions)andtheirnonverbaldemeanor(e.g.,confidentandfactualvocaltone,
relaxeddemeanor)toinfercompetence,andthatoverconfidentindividualswould
displaythesebehavioralcues.
Asanopenresearchquestion,wealsoexaminedexplicitstatementsof
confidence(e.g.,“Iamreallygoodatthis”).Previousresearchhasshownthatsuch
explicitstatementsleadtheindividualtobeperceivedasmorecompetentbyothers
(Jones&Shrauger,1970;Powers&Zuroff,1988).Therefore,weexpectedexplicit
statementsofconfidencetobeutilizedbyobserverstoinfercompetence.However,
explicitstatementsofconfidencealsomakeapersonseemunlikeable(Jones&
Shrauger,1970;Powers&Zuroff,1988).Moreover,toattainstatus,onecannotbe
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
28
disliked(Homans,1950;Roethlisberger&Dickson,1938;Whyte,1943).Therefore,
itwaspossiblethatoverconfidentindividualswouldnotdisplaythosebehaviors,as
theywouldbebestservedavoidingsuchexplicitstatements.
Finally,wewantedtoruleoutapossiblealternativeexplanationforour
findings.Ifweweretofindthatgroupsperceivedoverconfidentindividualsasmore
competent,itispossiblethattheseperceptionsmightreflectmotivatedperceptual
biases.Forexample,priortheoristshavesuggestedthatwithingroups,members
tendtodefertomoreassertiveindividuals,andthenconstructoverlypositive
perceptionsofthoseindividuals’competencetorationalizetheirownpassivity(Lee
&Ofshe,1981).Inasmuchasoverconfidencerelatestoassertiveness(Goughetal.,
1951),wethoughitimportanttoaddressthisalternativeexplanation.Wethus
askedindependent,outsideobserverstorateparticipants’competenceaswell,to
helpestablishthatoverconfidentindividualsactuallyappearedcompetenttoothers.
Outsideobserversshouldfeelnoneedtorationalizeanyofthegroupmembers’
passivity,andthustheirperceptionsshouldnotsufferfromanyrelatedbiases.
Therefore,weexpectedoverconfidentindividualstobeperceivedasmore
competentbyoutsideobserversinadditiontogroupmembers.
Methods
Participants.Participantswere120studentsandstaff(56%women)ata
WestCoastuniversitythatparticipatedaspartofabroaderstudyofsmallgroups
(seeKennedy,Anderson,&Moore,2011).Themeanagewas20years(SD=4.1).
Thesamplewasapproximately60%Asian,28%Caucasian,5%Hispanic,1%
AfricanAmerican,and6%otherracialbackgrounds.
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29
Procedure.Uponarrivalatthelaboratory,participantswereassignedto
groupsoffour.Inthefirstphaseofthestudy,groupswerepresentedwithtenfull‐
bodyphotographsofindividualsandaskedtoestimateeachindividual’sweight
separately,usingtheirownanswersheet.Thistaskhasbeenusedinprevious
researchonoverconfidence(Moore&Klein,2008).Duringthisfirstphase,
participantswereinstructednottospeaktoeachotheruntileveryonehadfinished
withtheir10estimates.Thepresenceofanexperimenterensuredcompliancewith
thisinstruction.Inthesecondphaseofthestudy,groupmembersworkedtogether,
whilebeingvideotaped,toestimatetheweightsoftheindividualsinthe
photographs.Inthethirdphaseofthestudy,aftercompletingall10estimatesasa
group,participantsprivatelyratedeachother’srelativecompetenceatthetask.
Overconfidence.Sofarwehavemeasuredoverconfidence–specifically
overplacement–byfocusingonindividuals’self‐perceivedrankrelativetoallother
participantsinthestudy.Yetindividualsattainhigherstatusinagroupwhenthey
areperceivedasmorecompetentthanothergroupmembers(Bergeretal.,1972).
Forexample,arelativelyincompetentpersonislikelytoattainhighstatusina
groupofindividualswhoareevenlesscompetentthanhim.Wethusmeasured
overplacementbyassessingself‐perceivedperformancerelativetoothergroup
members.Participantsprivatelyreportedtheirperceptionsoftheirownabilitiesat
thetaskbyansweringtheitem,“Pleaserankthefourmembersofyourgroupwith
respecttotheirabilitytocorrectlyestimatepeople’sweights.”FollowingMooreand
Klein(2008),wemeasuredparticipants’actualperformanceintheindividualtask
bycalculatinghowclosetheirweightestimatesweretothecorrectweightforeach
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
30
photograph.Theparticipantwiththehighestaccuracyinestimatesreceivedthe
rankof“1,”thenextsmallest,“2,”etc.Onlytwogroupshadmemberswhotied,and
bothweretiedfor3rdrank.AsinStudy1,weregressedparticipants’self‐perceived
rankontheiractualrankandretainedtheresidual.
Peerrankedcompetence.Participantsprivatelyrankedeachgroup
member’scompetence.AsinStudy3,weconductedasocialrelationsmodelanalysis
oftheseround‐robinpeer‐perceptions.Groupmembersagreedaboutoneanother’s
taskability,inthatthevarianceattributabletothepersonratedwassignificant(the
relativetargetvariancewas.42;Kenny&LaVoie,1984).SOREMOalsocalculateda
targetscoreforeachparticipant,whichwasessentiallyhisorheraveragepeer‐
perceivedcompetence.Wethenreverse‐scoredtheserankingmeasuressothat
higherrankingsindicatedhigherpeer‐perceivedcompetence.
Ratingsofcompetencemadebyoutsidejudges.Inselectingoutside
observerswhowouldratethegroupmembers,wewantedtoavoidconfounding
groupmembership(i.e.,beingagroupmembervs.anoutsideobserver)withthe
judges’characteristics.Forexample,ifoutsideobserverswereolderormore
educatedthangroupmembers,theymightperceivegroupmembersdifferentlythan
groupmembersperceiveeachother.Toavoidthispotentialconfound,outside
observerswereselectedwhowereassimilartothegroupmembersaspossible.
Specifically,120undergraduatestudents,recruitedfromthesamesubjectpoolas
thetargetparticipants,wereusedasindependentpeerjudgesofcompetence.Four
separateindependentpeerjudgeswereassignedtoeachvideotape.Eachjudge
watchedasinglegroup’sinteractioninitsentiretyandratedallfourgroupmembers
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
31
intheirassignedgrouponthesamepeer‐rankedcompetencemeasureonwhich
groupmembersrankedeachother.
Recruitingoutsideobserversfromasubjectpoolgeneratedanadditional
concern,however–namely,thatthesejudgesmightstillbemotivatedtorationalize
thehierarchiestheyobservedinthegroups.Thatis,ifgroupmembersmightbe
motivatedtorationalizetheirownpassivity(Lee&Ofshe,1981),thensubjectpool
judgesmightalsobesimilarlymotivated,becausetheymightidentifywiththe
participantsinthevideotape.Toaddressthisconcern,werecruitedasecondsetof
judgesusingAmazon.com’sMechanicalTurk(MTurk),anonlineservicethat
matches”workers”with”requesters”whopostjobstobecompleted.Weuploaded
thevideorecordingstoallowonlineviewingandrecruited300MTurkjudgesin
total,or10separateindependentjudgespervideotape.Eachjudgewatchedasingle
group’sinteractioninitsentiretyandrankedeachofthefourgroupmembersin
theirassignedgrouponthesamecompetencemeasure.
Thecompetencerankingsmadebybothsetsofoutsidejudgescorrelated
highlywiththosemadebythegroupmembers,α=.71,indicatingthatgroup
members’perceptionsofeachother’scompetencecorrespondedtooutsidejudges’
perceptionsoftheircompetence.Thiscross‐judgeconsensushelpsaddressthe
concernthatgroupmember’sjudgmentswerebiased.Inlightofthisagreement
acrossthethreesetsofjudges,weaveragedthemtoformanaggregatemeasureof
observerperceivedcompetence.
Codesofbehavioralcues.Researchassistantswhowereblindtothe
researchquestionscodedparticipants’behavioralcues.Wefocusedon10separate
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32
behavioralcues(withinter‐raterreliabilityinparentheses).Codersratedthe
percentageoftimeparticipantsspokeinthegroupdiscussion(α=.89,M=24.98,SD
=6.63),countedthenumberoftimesparticipantsofferedananswerbeforeanyone
else(α=.91,M=2.87,SD=2.47)andafteratleastoneanswerhadalreadybeen
provided(α=.84,M=10.84,SD=5.18),andprovidedinformationrelevanttothe
problem(α=.92,M=9.12,SD=6.33).Codersalsoratedwhethertheparticipant
hadaconfidentandfactualvocaltone(vs.uncertainandwaveringvocaltone;α=
.60,M=4.48,SD=1.52),seemedcalmandrelaxedornervousandanxious(α=.60,
M=1.88,SD=1.16),andwhetherthepersonshowedconstrictedpostureandtook
uplittlespaceorshowedexpandedpostureandtookupalotofspace(α=.67,M=
4.08,SD=1.26).Inaddition,coderscountedthenumberoftimestheparticipant
madeanexplicitstatementabouthisorherability(α=.81,M=.33,SD=.65),the
easeordifficultyofthetask(α=.92,M=.48,SD=1.05),andhisorhercertaintyin
hisorherestimate(α=.83,M=1.58,SD=2.19).
Results
ConsistentwiththefindingsfromStudies1through3,overconfident
individualswereperceivedbyothersasmorecompetent,r(118)=.29,p=.002.
Again,itisworthnotingthatthisindexofoverconfidencereflectsbiasinself‐
perceptions.Consequently,thecorrelationreflectstherelationshipbetween
positivebiasinself‐perceptionandothers’ratingsofone’sabilities.Drawingonthe
logicofBrunswik’s(1956)lensmodel,wenextexaminedwhichbehavioralcues
observersutilizedtomakeinferencesaboutparticipants’competenceandthe
degreetowhichoverconfidentindividualsdisplayedthosecues.
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33
Cueutilization.Thecue‐utilizationcorrelationsintherightmostsideof
Table2reflecttherelationshipsbetweentheobservers’perceptionsofcompetence
andthebehavioralcuesparticipantsdisplayed.Thebehavioralcuesarepresented
indescendingorderofthemagnitudeoftheircue‐utilizationcorrelation.
Consistentwithexpectations,observersperceivedparticipantstobemore
competentwhenparticipantsspokemore,usedamoreconfidentandfactualvocal
tone,andprovidedmoreinformationrelevanttothegroup’sproblems.Infact,these
threecue‐utilizationcorrelationswerequitehigh,allabover=.50,suggesting
observersutilizethesecuesagreatdealwheninferringothers’competence.In
addition,observersperceivedparticipantstobecompetentwhenparticipants
exhibitedanexpandedposture,showedacalmandrelaxeddemeanor,offeredmore
answers(eitherfirstorafteranothergroupmemberhadalreadydoneso),and
mademorestatementsaboutthecertaintyoftheiranswers.Itisinterestingtonote
thatobserversdidnotutilizeatarget’sdirectstatementsofhisorherownabilityor
oftheeaseofthetask.Itseemsthatobserversreliedmoreheavilyonindirect
signalsofconfidence,suchasmorecontributionsandaconfidentnonverbal
demeanor,thanonexplicitstatementsofconfidence.
Cuedisplay.Thecorrelationsintheleft‐handsectionofTable2reflectthe
relationshipsbetweenparticipants’innercharacteristics–boththeir
overconfidenceandactualcompetence–andthebehavioralcuestheydisplayed.
Consistentwithourexpectations,overconfidentindividualstendedtodisplaymost
ofthebehavioralcuesutilizedbyobserverstoinfercompetence:Theyspokemore,
usedaconfidentandfactualvocaltone,providedmoreinformationrelevanttothe
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34
problem,exhibitedacalmandrelaxeddemeanor,andofferedanswersfirst.
Althoughoverconfidentindividualsdidnotofferanswersafteranothergroup
memberhadalreadydoneso,thiswaslikelybecausetheyprovidedanswersfirst;
thosetwobehavioralcuescorrelatednegatively,r(128)=‐.33,p<.001.Theonly
surprisingnullcue‐displaycorrelationwasthusforexpandedposture.
Alonganexploratoryvein,wenextexaminedexplicitstatementsof
confidence.Overconfidentindividualsdidnotmakeexplicitstatementsabouttheir
ownabilities,theeaseofthetask,ortheircertaintyintheiranswers.Thesenon‐
significantfindingsareinteresting,givenpreviousfindingsthatsuggestsuchexplicit
statementscanleadtolowerlevelsofliking(Jones&Shrauger,1970).
Finally,itisinterestingtonotethatnoneofthecue‐displaycorrelationswere
significantforactualcompetence.Thissuggestscompetentindividualsdidnot
displaythebehavioralcuesthatsignalcompetencetoothersandmighthelpshed
lightonwhycompetenceissodifficulttodetectinothers(e.g.,Ames&Kammrath,
2004;Minsonetal.,2011).Ifindividualswhoareactuallycompetentdonotdisplay
thebehaviorsthatsignalcompetencetoothers,thenobserverswillhavedifficulty
recognizingtheircompetence.Infact,ouroverconfidenceindexpredictedthe
behavioralcuesmorestronglythandidtheindexofactualcompetence.
Overconfidentindividualsbehavedinwaysthatconveyedcompetencemore
convincinglythandidindividualswhoareactuallycompetent.
Summary.UsingaBrunswik(1956)lensmodelanalysis,wefoundthat
overconfidentindividualshaveabehavioralsignaturethat,toobservers,lookslike
actualcompetence.Thishelpsexplainwhyoverconfidentindividualsareseenby
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
35
othersascompetent,evenwhentheylackcompetence.Infact,overconfident
individualsmoreconvincinglydisplayedcompetencecuesthandidindividualswho
wereactuallycompetent.
Study5
Thusfar,wehaveprovidedevidencethatoverconfidentindividualsappear
morecompetenttoothersandattainhigherstatus.However,tosupportthe
argumentthatoverconfidencepervadesself‐perceptionbecauseofitsstatus
benefits,itisalsonecessarytoshowthatthedriveforstatusactuallypromotes
overconfidence.Study5thustestedwhetherindividualdifferencesinthedesirefor
statuspredictindividualdifferencesinoverconfidence.Ifsuchanassociationexists,
itwouldsuggestthatnotonlydoesoverconfidenceleadtosocialbenefits,butalso
thatthedesireforthosebenefitspromotesoverconfidence.
Fortunately,thereexistsawell‐establishedandwidelyusedself‐report
measurethatisappropriateforourneeds:Jackson’sneedfordominancemeasure
fromthePersonalityResearchForm(PRF;1999).Theneedfordominancerefersto
individualdifferencesinthedesiretooccupyrolesofprestige,influence,and
authority(Murray,1938);itemsonthemeasureaskindividualshowmuchthey
desiretobeinpositionsofhighstatus,andwishtohavecontrolandinfluencein
socialsituations.Wehypothesizedtheneedfordominancepredictsoverconfidence.
Wealsowantedtoruleoutanalternativeexplanation.Ifweweretofindan
associationbetweentheneedfordominanceandoverconfidence,itispossiblethat
thereisnothingspecialabouttheneedfordominanceorstatusperse;individuals
whoaremoremotivatedtosucceedingeneralmighttendtobemoreoverconfident.
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
36
Toruleoutthispossibility,wetestedwhethertheneedfordominanceuniquely
predictsoverconfidence,amongotherpotentiallyrelevantpsychologicalneeds.
Specifically,wefocusedontwoothermeasuresfromthePRF:theneedfor
affiliationandtheneedforachievement(Jackson,1999).Theneedforaffiliation
assessesthedegreetowhichindividualsdesiretoengageinsocialactivitiessuchas
partiesorcollaborativehobbies,havefriends,andmeetnewpeople.Theneedfor
achievementfocusesonhowmuchindividualsaspiretoachieveintheirfieldand
workhardtowardaccomplishingdifficultgoals.Wedidnotexpectthattheneedfor
affiliationwouldpredictoverconfidencebecause,accordingtocircumplexmodelsof
humanbehavior,statusandaffiliationconcernsareorthogonal(e.g.,Wiggins,1979).
Thedesiretoconnectwithothersshouldthusbeuncorrelatedwithself‐perceptions
ofexpertiseortaskcompetence.Wealsodidnotexpectthattheneedfor
achievementwouldpredictoverconfidence.Priorresearchsuggeststhatoverly
positiveself‐perceptionsmightnotfacilitateachievement(e.g.,Robins&Beer,
2001).Therefore,thosewhoseektoachievemightnotbemotivatedtoengagein
overconfidence;suchapracticewouldnotfurthertheirgoals.
Method
Participants.Oursampleincluded77individualsfromaroundtheUnited
States(60%male).Thedatawerecollectedonline,usingMTurk.Theaverageage
was36years(SD=11.39).Participantswereaskedtoselectallcategoriesthat
comprisedtheirethnicbackground;81.8%selectedWhite,6.5%selectedAfrican‐
American,3.9%selectedLatino,6.5%selectedAsian‐American,and1.3%selected
“other.”
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
37
Procedure.Participantsfirstcompletedmeasuresofdemographicand
individualdifferencevariables.Theywerethentoldtheywouldbeworkingwith
threeotherpeople,viaanon‐linechatroom,whowerealsocurrentlyparticipating
inthestudy.Beforeparticipantsweretojointhisostensiblegroup,however,they
completedaversionofthetaskindividually.Theindividualtaskinvolved10trials.
Foreachtrial,theyestimatedtheaverageoftheseventwo‐digitnumbers
simultaneouslydisplayedfortwoseconds.Aftercompletingalltentrials,they
estimatedtheirabilitiesonthetask.Finally,participantsweretoldtherewould
actuallybenogrouptask,thanked,anddebriefed.
Theneedsfordominance,affiliation,andachievement.Jackson’s
PersonalResearchForm(PRF;Jackson,1999)includesavarietyofneedsscales,
eachcontaining20statementsthatareratedaseither“true”or“false.”Wecoded
answersindicatingweakerorstrongerdesireas1and2,respectively.Theneedfor
dominancescaleshowedhighinternalreliability(α=.90,M=1.52,SD=0.31),as
didtheneedforaffiliation(α=.86,M=1.41,SD=0.28)andneedforachievement(α
=.76,M=1.63,SD=0.22)measures.
BigFivepersonalitydimensions.AsinStudy2,wecontrolledfor
extraversionandneuroticismbecausethesevariableshavebothbeenlinkedto
overconfidence(Schaeferetal.,2004)andtotheattainmentofstatus(Andersonet
al.,2001).Weagainusedthe44‐itemBigFiveInventory(BFI;Benet‐Martinez&
John,1998;John&Srivastava,1999).AllfiveBFIscalesshowedinternal
consistency,includingextraversion(α=.88,M=2.83,SD=0.85),agreeableness(α=
.85,M=3.77,SD=0.64),conscientiousness(α=.88,M=3.70,SD=0.72),
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
38
neuroticism(α=.87,M=2.85,SD=0.80),andopenness(α=.80,M=3.70,SD=
0.60).
Overconfidence.Afterparticipantscompleted10trialsofthenumberstask,
theylearnedthatananswerwouldcountascorrectifitfellwithinfivepointsofthe
actualanswer.Theywereaskedtoestimatetheirpercentilerankrelativetothe
otherparticipantsinthestudy,usingthesamescalefromStudies1and2(M=
54.18,SD=25.02).Wealsoaskedthemwheretheythoughttheywouldrank(in
termsofhowmanyquestionstheyansweredcorrectly)amongthefour‐person
groupinwhichtheywereabouttowork.Theyansweredusingascaleof1(thebest
inmygroup)to4(theworstinmygroup),M=2.56,SD=0.79.Wethenreverse‐
scoredthismeasuresuchthathigherscoresindicatedbetterrelativeperformance.
Asexpected,thesetwoself‐perceptionsofrelativeabilitycorrelatedhighlywith
eachother,r(75)=.70,p<.001.
Wescoredparticipants’actualperformanceonthetaskusingthemethod
describedtothem(M=4.79,SD=2.10).Wethentransformedtheirperformance
scoresintopercentilerankingstoallowustoscoreoverplacement.Inaddition,
althoughwedidnotactuallyassignparticipantstogroups,wewantedtoestimate
whatparticipants’rankwouldhavebeeniftheyhadbeenassignedtogroups.We
thusbrokeallparticipantsupintogroupsoffour,accordingtothetimeinwhich
theyparticipated,andrankedthemwithineachgroup.Thetwomeasuresofactual
rankinrelativeperformancecorrelatedhighlywitheachother,r(75)=.77,p<.001.
AsinStudies1and2,weregressedparticipants’self‐perceivedrankontheir
actualrank,andthenretainedtheresidual–forboththeirself‐perceivedpercentile
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
39
rankrelativetoallotherparticipants,andtheirself‐perceivedrankrelativeto
participantswithwhomtheywouldhavebeenassignedtoagroup.Thesetwo
measuresofoverconfidencecorrelatedhighlywitheachother,α=.81,r(75)=.68,p
<.001,andthuswecombinedthem.
ResultsandDiscussion
Asimultaneousregressionequationwiththeeightpredictors,includingthe
threeneedmeasuresandallBigFivedimensions,appearsinTable3.Asshown,out
ofalltheindependentvariables,theneedfordominancewastheonlysignificant
predictorofoverconfidenceandthelinkbetweentheneedfordominanceand
overconfidencewassubstantial,withastandardizedbetaof.42.Thissuggeststhat
individualswhomorestronglydesiredpositionsofhigherstatusandinfluence
tendedtobemoreoverconfidentintheirtaskabilities.
Incontrast,theneedforaffiliationdidnotpredictoverconfidence.Therefore,
desiringstrongerconnectionswithothersdidnotleadtoastrongertendencyto
engageinoverconfidence.Perhapsmorenoteworthy,themotivationtoachievealso
didnotpredictoverconfidenceinone’staskabilities.Itseemsthatthedesirefor
socialsuccess,butnotnecessarilythedesirefortasksuccessperse,predicted
overconfidence.Finally,itisalsoimportanttonotethattherelationbetweenthe
needfordominanceandoverconfidenceremainedsignificantaftercontrollingforall
otherdimensions,includingpersonalitydimensions.
Study6
Study6furthertestedtheideathatthedesireforstatusdrives
overconfidence,andmakestwokeycontributionsoverandabovetheotherfive
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
40
studieswereport.First,Study6employedanexperimentaldesignandmanipulated
thedesireforstatus.Itusedanestablishedprocedurethatasksparticipantsto
imagineworkingforaprestigiouscompanyandaspiringtomoveupthehierarchy
(Griskeviciusetal.,2009).Wethenaskedparticipantstheirself‐perceived
percentilerankingonahostofdimensionsrelatedtoattainingstatusinabusiness
context.Wereasonedthatthroughrandomassignment,participantsineach
experimentalconditionwouldnotdifferfromeachotherinactualskillsandabilities
relevanttobusinesscontexts.Therefore,anydifferencesinself‐perceivedabilities
wouldbeduetothestatusmanipulation,ratherthandifferencesinactualabilities.
Second,althoughthereisconsistencyacrosscontextsinthepersonal
characteristicsthatleadtohigherstatus(Lordetal.,1986),thosecharacteristicscan
varymarkedlyfromonegrouptoanother(Anderson,Spataro,&Flynn,2008).For
example,quantitativeskillswilllikelybemoreimportanttoattainingstatusina
groupofengineersthaninafraternity.Thissuggeststhatbeingoverconfidenton
dimensionsthatleadtostatusinonecontextwillnotnecessarilyhelpindividuals
attainstatusinanothercontext(e.g.,Andersonetal.,2008).Beingoverconfidentin
one’squantitativeskillswouldnothelponeattainstatusinafraternity(andinfact
mighthurtone’sstatus).Therefore,apersuasivedemonstrationwouldshowthat
thedesireforstatusinagivencontextleadstooverconfidenceprimarilyon
dimensionsthatfacilitatestatusattainmentinthatcontext,butnotondimensions
thatdonotleadtostatusattainmentinthatcontext.
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41
Method
Participants.Oursampleincluded68individualsfromaroundtheUnited
States(59%male).WerecruitedtheseparticipantsonlineviaMTurk.Theaverage
agewas33years(SD=10.16).Participantswereaskedtoselectallcategoriesthat
comprisedtheirethnicbackground;82.4%selectedWhite,4.4%selectedAfrican‐
American,2.9%selectedLatino,8.8%selectedAsian‐American,and1.5%selected
“other.”
Designandprocedure.Thestudyhadtwobetween‐participantconditions,
astatus‐motiveinductionandacontrolcondition,whichwerebasedonprevious
research(Griskeviciusetal.,2009;Griskeviciusetal.,2010),andtwowithin‐
participantconditions,businessrelevantandirrelevantpersonalcharacteristics.All
participantsfirstcompletedmeasuresofdemographicvariables.Theywerethen
askedtoreadastoryandimaginethemselvesinthescenarioandfeeltheemotions
andfeelingsthatthepersonisexperiencing.Participantsinthestatusconditionread
astoryinwhichtheyweremotivatedtoattainstatusinaworkcontext.Participants
inthecontrolconditionreadastoryinwhichtheylostandthenfoundtheirwallet.
Finally,participantsreportedtheirpercentilerankingonahostofability
dimensions,someofwhichwererelevanttoattainingstatusintheworkcontext
describedinthestatusprime,andsomeofwhichwereirrelevant.Acheckattheend
ofthestudyshowedthatnoparticipantcorrectlyguessedthenatureofthestudyor
itshypotheses.
Statusandcontrolprimes.Inthestatusprime,participantsreadashort
storyofabout400wordsthatwasadaptedfromanestablishedstatusmotive
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42
manipulation(Griskeviciusetal.,2009;Griskeviciusetal.,2010).Inthestory,
participantsimaginethattheyrecentlygraduatedfromcollegeanddecidedtowork
foraprestigiouscompany.Thejobpayswellandoffersthemthechancetoascend
thehierarchy.Ontheirfirstdayatwork,theirbosssaysthatiftheydowell,theywill
beputonthe“fasttrack”tothetop.6Thecontrolprimewasalsobasedon
Griskeviciusetal.(2009),andaskedparticipantstoimaginebeingathomeand
realizingthattheirwalletismissing.Theysearchforthewalletandthestoryends
asthepersonfindsit.
Toensuretheadaptedstatusprimeelicitedthedesireforstatus,wepilot‐
testedbothprimesonaseparategroupofparticipants.Forty‐fourparticipantsread
eitherthestatusorthecontrolprimeandthenratedtheextenttowhichthey
desiredhighersocialstatus,regard,prestige,andrespectfromothers(α=.87).To
ensurethestatusprimeelicitedadesireforstatusspecifically,butnotadesirefor
bettersocialstandingingeneral,participantsalsoratedtheextenttowhichthey
desiredtobelong:tobelikedbyothers,acceptedbyothers,andincludedinsocial
groups(α=.87).Relativetothecontrolstory,thestatusstoryelicitedastronger
desireforstatusona1–7scale(5.85vs.5.12;p=.033)butnotastrongerdesireto
belong(5.79vs.5.39,p=.200).
Selfperceivedcompetence.Weaskedparticipantstoratetheirpercentile
rankingon15skillsandabilitiesthatseemedrelevanttoattaininghigherstatusin
workcontexts.Wefocusedontask‐relatedskills(intelligence,analyticalabilities,
criticalthinkingskills,problemsolvingskills,innovativeness,generalmental
abilities,abilitytofocus,multi‐taskingskills,creativity),aswellassocial‐emotional
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
43
skills(socialskills,abilitytoworkinteams,managingconflict,handlingstress,
maskingemotions).Wealsoaskedparticipantstoranktheirpercentileonsixskills
andabilitiesthatseemedirrelevanttoattainingstatusinworkcontexts(driving
ability,athletics,generalhand‐eyecoordination,generalphysicalreflexes,musical
ability,artisticskills).The15business‐relevantskillscorrelatedwitheachother(α
=.85)asdidthesixirrelevantskills(α=.70).
Toestablishthatthebusiness‐relevantskillswouldbedeemedmorerelevant
toattainingstatusinthatcontextthantheirrelevantskills,wepilottestedall
dimensionsonaseparatesampleof44participants.(Thissamplewasdistinctfrom
theotherpilot‐testsampledescribedabove.)Theseparticipantsreadthestatus
primestoryandwereaskedtorateeachoftheskillsandabilitiesonascalefrom1
(unimportanttoperformingintheworkcontextdescribedabove)to7(extremely
importanttoperformingintheworkcontextdescribedabove).Afactoranalysis
showedthatthebusiness‐relevantskillsallloadedontothefirstfactor,andthe
irrelevantskillsallloadedontootherfactors.Wethuscombinedall15business‐
relevantskills(α=.97)andthencombinedallirrelevantskills(α=.72).As
expected,thebusiness‐relevantskills(M=5.99)wereseenasmorerelevantto
attainingstatusthantheirrelevantskills(M=2.80,p<.001).
ResultsandDiscussion
Wesubmittedtheself‐perceivedcompetenceaggregatestoa2x2mixed‐
modelANOVAinwhichprime(desireforstatusvs.control)servedasthebetween‐
participantsfactorandskillrelevance(relevantvs.irrelevanttotheprimecontext)
servedasthewithin‐participantsfactor.Therewasnomaineffectforprime
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
44
condition,F(1,66)=0.23,p=.636,buttherewasamaineffectforskillrelevanceF
(1,66)=89.78,withindividualsperceivingthemselvestohavesuperiorwork‐
relevantskills(M=70.47,SD=10.95)thanirrelevantskills(M=54.63,SD=17.14).
Moregermanetoourhypotheses,however,wastheemergenceofa
significantinteractionbetweenprimeconditionandskillrelevance,F(1,66)=5.03,
p=.028.Specifically,individualsinducedtodesirestatusperceivedthemselvesto
possesshigherbusiness‐relevantskills(M=72.89,SD=12.24)thanindividualsin
thecontrolcondition(M=67.73,SD=8.67),t(66)=2.02,p=.047,butnottohave
higherskillsirrelevanttothebusinesscontext(M=53.57,SD=18.75)thanthosein
thecontrolcondition(M=55.80,SD=15.34),t(66)=.53,p=.595,ns.Therefore,the
effectofthestatusprimewasstrongerononlythoseskillsandabilitiesrelevantto
attainstatusinthebusinesscontext.Inducingthedesireforstatususingabusiness‐
relatedprimedidnotmakeparticipantsmoreconfidentonskillsandabilitiesthat
wereirrelevanttothebusinesscontext.
GeneralDiscussion
SummaryofFindings
Insixstudieswetestedastatus‐enhancementaccountofoverconfidence,
whichproposesthatoverconfidencebiasesself‐judgmentbecauseithelps
individualsattainhigherstatus.Insupport,wefoundthat(a)overconfident
individualswereperceivedbyothersasmorecompetentand,inturn,afforded
higherstatus,(b)overconfidentindividualsdisplayedthebehaviorsthatareusedby
otherstoinfercompetence,and(c)thedesireforstatus–bothnaturallyoccurring
andexperimentallyinduced–leadtohigherlevelsofoverconfidence.
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
45
Thecurrentstudieshadanumberofstrengths.First,thedatawereextensive,
involving1172individualstotal:664participants,519ofwhominteractedindyads
orgroups,inadditionto420independentjudgesand88pilottestparticipants.The
studiesalsousedawidearrayofdatasources,includingself‐report,operational
indices,peer‐ratings,independentjudgmentsbyoutsidejudges,andbehavioral
codesbytrainedcoders.Finally,thestudiesuseddiversedesigns,includingdyadic,
group,laboratory,field,short‐termandlonger‐term,correlationalandexperimental.
Therewerealsolimitationstothestudies.First,wecannotknowwith
certaintywhetheroverconfidentindividualstrulybelievedthattheywerehighly
competent,orwhethertheyweremerelyreportingwhattheywishedtobelieve.
However,vonHippelandTrivers(2011)reviewedfindingssuggestingthat
overconfidenceemergesunconsciously,withoutintentorawareness.Second,our
studieswereconductedprimarilyinthelaboratory,whichmightlimittheir
ecologicalvalidity.Itispossiblethatthesamefindingsmightnotemergein“real
world”contextswherethestakesarehigher.Therefore,futureresearchshould
explorethisissuebyexaminingnaturallyoccurringcontexts.
TheoreticalContributions
Thecurrentfindingsmaketwoprimarycontributionstotheliteratureon
overconfidence.First,theyspeaktotheoriginsofoverconfidence.Morespecifically,
humansmighthavethetendencytoformfalseself‐beliefsbecausedoingsohelps
convinceothersoftheirpositivevalue.Someintriguingrecenttheoriesspeculate
abouttheevolutionaryoriginsofcognitivebiases(Haselton&Nettle,2006)and
socialroleofoverconfidence(Johnson&Fowler,2011);ourstudiesprovidesomeof
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
46
thefirstempiricalinvestigationsofthepossiblesocialbasesofoverconfidence.In
addition,overconfidencehasbeenwidelyconsideredanimpedimenttoindividual
success(Dunningetal.,2004).Thecurrentfindingssuggestthattheeffectsof
overconfidencearelikelymorenuancedandcanhavebenefitsaswellascosts.
Ourfindingsalsohaveanumberofimportanttheoreticalimplicationsforthe
statusliterature.Forexample,onecommonlyaskedquestionaboutthosewho
possessstatusis,doestheirbehaviorreflecttheirpositionsortheirpreexisting
personalities?Forexample,inthecaseofnarcissisticCEOs(Chatterjee&Hambrick,
2007),didtheirstatusmakethemmorenarcissisticordidtheirnarcissismhelp
themriseinthehierarchy?Withregardtooverconfidence,ourfindingssuggestthat
theanswermightbe“both.”Higherrankmightleadtoinflatedself‐perceptions(e.g.,
Pfeffer,Cialdini,Hanna,&Knopoff,1998;Sachdev&Bourhis,1987),but
overconfidentindividualsarealsomorelikelytoattainstatusinthefirstplace.
FutureDirections
Thecurrentfindingsgenerateanumberofquestionsforfutureresearch.
First,acriticalissueforfutureresearchistounderstandtheboundaryconditions
fortheeffectsweobservedhere.Whenwilloverconfidenceleadtosocialbenefits
suchastheonesweobservedandwhenwillitnot?Also,inStudies1,2,and3,we
didnotfindanyevidenceforacurvilinearrelationbetweenoverconfidenceand
statusattainment.However,curvilineareffectsarenotoriouslydifficulttoobtain,
duetolackofstatisticalpower(McClelland&Judd,1993).Itisthusimportantthat
futureresearchexaminethisissuefurther.Finally,itisimportanttotestthese
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
47
hypothesesinothercultures,wheretheeffectsofoverconfidencemightdiffer
(Heine,Lehman,Markus,&Kitayama,1999).
Weconcludebynotingtheimportanceofexamininghowsocialstatusis
afforded.Thoseindividualsamonguswhoareelevatedtopositionsofstatuswield
undueinfluence,haveaccesstomoreresources,getbetterinformation,andenjoya
varietyofbenefits.Oneofthemostbasicquestionsforstudentsofhumansocial
groups,organizations,andsocieties,isthequestionofhowweselectindividualsfor
positionsofstatus.Althoughwemayseektochoosewisely,weareoftenforcedto
relyonproxiesforability,suchasindividuals’confidence.Insodoing,we,asa
society,createincentivesforthosewhowouldseekstatustodisplaymore
confidencethantheiractualabilitymerits.Theideathatoverconfidencemight
pervadehumanself‐perceptionbecauseofitssocialbenefitsgeneratesnew
hypothesesanddirectionsforfutureresearch. 
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
48
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Footnotes
1.Priorresearchhasdistinguishedvariousformsofoverconfidence(Moore&Healy,
2008).Wefocusedonoverplacement,whichinvolvesoverestimatingone’srankin
abilityrelativetoothers,becauseindividuals’statusisbasedonperceivedabilities
relativetoothers(Bergeretal.,1972;Ridgeway,1984).
2.Theuseofdifferencescoreshasbeenwidelycriticizedbecausedifferencescores
areunreliableandtendtobeconfoundedwithvariablesthatcomprisetheindex
(e.g.,Cohen,Cohen,West,&Aiken,2003;Cronbach&Furby,1970).Scholarssuggest
regressingparticipants’actualperformanceontotheirself‐evaluationsandretaining
theresidualsoftheself‐evaluations(e.g.,John&Robins,1994).
3.Thephotographedtargetsandthedataforeachtarget’s“true”personalitywere
obtainedfromDanielAmes.Eachtarget’s“truescore”wastheaverageratingmade
bytheselfandeightknowledgeableinformants.
4.Theaccuracyandover‐claimingindexeswerecalculatedusingstandardsignal
detectionformulas(Macmillan&Creelman,1991).Wefirstcalculatedthe“hit”rate
astheproportionofthe48realitemsonwhichtherespondentclaimedfamiliarity
(aresponseabove0onthefamiliarityscale).Similarly,wecalculatedthe“false‐
alarm”rateasthecorrespondingproportionofthe12foilsonwhichtherespondent
claimedfamiliarity.Fromthesehitandfalse‐alarmrates,twoindexeswere
calculatedforeachrespondent:Theaccuracyindexwasdprime(thez‐transformed
hitrateminusthez‐transformedfalsealarmrate),andtheover‐claimingindexwas
thecriterionlocation(theaverageofthez‐transformedhitandfalsealarmrates).
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
67
5.Providingfeedbackaboutpercentilerankwouldhavemeantprovidingsomein
theoverconfidentconditionoverlynegativefeedback(e.g.,tellingpeoplewhoscored
abovethe98thpercentilethattheyscoredinthe95thpercentile).Pilottestsshowed
thatfeedbackaboutabsoluteperformanceeffectivelymanipulatedoverplacement.
6.Wemodifiedtheoriginalstorytoavoidtwopotentialconfounds.First,toavoid
inducingcompetitivefeelingsmoregenerally,wedeletedapartthatspokeofa
competitionforpromotionwithothernewlyhiredemployees.Second,toavoid
directlypriminghigherlevelsofconfidence,wedeletedapartthatspokeaboutthe
protagonisttryingtoboosthisorherconfidence.

STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
68
Table1.
Study2.CoefficientsforRegressionModelsCorrespondingtoEffectofOverconfidence
onPeerRatedStatusandPeerAssignedGrade.

Status

Grade
B
SEB

B
SEB
Overconfidence
.32*
.07
.08*
.03
Accuracy .27* .05 .06* .02
Optimism ‐.01 .03 ‐.01 .01
TraitDominance ‐.02 .03 ‐.02 .01
Extraversion .04 .06 .01 .02
Neuroticism ‐.01 .06 ‐.02 .02

*p<.01
STATUS‐ENHANCEMENTACCOUNTOFOVERCONFIDENCE
69
Table2
Study4.TheBehavioralSignatureofOverconfidence:ABrunswik(1956)LensModelAnalysis
Cue‐displaycorrelations
Cue‐utilizationcorrelations
Overconfidence
Actual
Competence
Behavioralcue("lens")
Observer‐perceived
competence
.25** .17 Percentoftimespoke .59**
.29** .13 Confidentandfactualvocaltone .54**
.19* .03 Providedinformationrelevanttoproblem .51**
.00 .15 Expandedposture .37**
.22* .02 Calmandrelaxeddemeanor .34**
‐.10 .16 Offeredananswerlater .24*
.27** ‐.04 Offeredananswerfirst .21*
.17 .12 Statementsofcertaintyinestimate .21*
.07 .10 Statementsabouteaseordifficultyoftask .18
‐.14 ‐.06 Statementsaboutone’sowncompetence .09
 
*p<.05,two‐tailed. **p<.01,two‐tailed.
STATUS-ENHANCEMENT ACCOUNT OF OVERCONFIDENCE 0
Table3
Study5:NeedforDominancePredictsOverconfidence
Variable
b
SE
β
t
(Constant) ‐1.45 1.55 ‐0.94
NeedforDominance 1.220.46.422.64*
NeedforAffiliation 0.22 0.60 .07 0.37
NeedforAchievement ‐0.11 0.58 ‐.03 ‐0.19
Extraversion ‐0.26 0.21 ‐.25 ‐1.25
Agreeableness 0.06 0.20 .04 0.27
Conscientiousness 0.17 0.17 .14 1.01
Neuroticism ‐0.05 0.16 ‐.05 ‐0.32
Openness ‐0.13 0.19 ‐.08 ‐0.68
Note.Statisticsappearinginboldrepresenttestsofourhypotheses.
*p=.010.

STATUS-ENHANCEMENT ACCOUNT OF OVERCONFIDENCE 1
Figure1.Partner‐ratedknowledgemediatedtherelationshipbetween
overconfidenceandstatusinthedyad(Study1).

STATUS-ENHANCEMENT ACCOUNT OF OVERCONFIDENCE 2
Figure2.Participantsprovidedwithoverlypositiveperformancefeedback,who
engagedinoverconfidence,wereperceivedasmorecompetentbytheirpartners
thanparticipantsprovidedwithaccurateperformancefeedback,whomore
accuratelyperceivedtheirability(Study3).

STATUS-ENHANCEMENT ACCOUNT OF OVERCONFIDENCE 0
Figure3.Brunswik’s(1956)lensmodel.
CueDisplayCueUtilization
Inner
Characteristic
(e.g.,agreeableness)
Lens
Cue3
(e.g.,furrowed
brows)
Cue2
(e.g.,frown)
Cue1
(e.g.,smile)
Observer
Judgment
(e.g.,rating
oftarget’s
agreeableness)
Inferenceoftarget’sinnercharacteristic
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