Are Nitwits Overconfident?

Awareness, kindness, basic decency are necessities not luxuries and are a hallmark of a person with easy confidence. Question is why are nitwits so full of confidence? Is this confidence truly confidence or is it traits such as bravado, swagger, brashness and bluster? Do these individuals carry a fantasy about themselves? Let’s have a look if research scientists and psychologists have anything to say about it..

It would seem they do. Studies have been many, to substantiate this.  And what an interesting spectrum of attributes they cover!

One of the most facinating studies conducted by the Tilsburg University’s department of Psychology, in Holland found illusions in many individuals and termed it ‘illusory superiority’.

Many individuals compare themselves with others across the length and breadth of many areas and in their own minds and oftentimes in their proclamations. They appear to come out as superior if not as heroes and champions.  Be it a social situation or the thought of who is more honest and who is less;  they automatically think they are more honest, while drawing comparisons they think they are more skillful, again while drawing comparisons they also think of themselves as, of course, more intelligent. With this nicely skewed opinion of themselves they live through their lives with exceptional generosity towards themselves.

Sensitivity and empathy towards others is an essential dimension of one’s personality. Let us here have a look at a major study that was conducted at Columbia University by Daniel Ames and Lara Kammrath.  The key words in this study were, Quote  “empathic accuracy; interpersonal sensitivity, metacognition; mind reading; narcissism” Unquote. Now let’s go on to see what they hit upon in their findings.  Before that see if we agree that understanding of what others think, want and feel is needed in one’s personality. When people fail to understand others they automatically form wrong impressions and end up taking improper or unsuitable actions. Coming back to the study, after intensive research they at Columbia came to the conclusion that their study painted a somewhat distressing picture at the same time gave them some reasons for optimism. Their studies confirmed two major questions. One was do the least sensitive ‘judges’  among people substantially overestimate their own performance and the other was,  does narcissism play a significant role?  On the first issue they found those who were at the bottom of interpersonal sensitivity greatly overestimated their ability and many were substantially ignorant of their limitations. Not in these very words but overall it looks like there were plenty of participants who had a grand opinion of their own abilities.  Although I couldn’t find it in the report, the reason for optimism must be simply that a majority of us do not belong to the category of those who overestimate themselves.

Nothing new about it all. Often, not sometimes, while driving to or from the office and passing through the hilly, winding roads I come across those daredevil drivers  who overestimates their  own abilities while overtaking other vehicles. If I were not to hit the brakes to let such drivers pass there surely would be a crash. To me it looks like another case of a nitwit being overconfident. I have deliberately used the masculine form while talking about such incidents because it is almost always a man behind the wheel who  probably  fancies himself to be a Rambo though once in a while one sees a Rambo version of a woman as well.

While on the subject, research has conclusively shown that in general, men overestimate their own IQ and women tend to underestimate it. I’m not saying there are no nitwits among women. Oh there must be plenty.  In the final analysis we are all human. Irrespective of gender, a certain percentage of people are prone to drawing a higher opinion about themselves, automatically, all or most of  the time.  The comment is based on carefully studying various research papers.

Way back in 2012 a study by Gordon and Hodson and Michael A. Busseri of Brock University went  on to suggest that smart people are less racist and found that lower intelligence in childhood is predictive of greater racism in adulthood.  This would naturally imply that these very people with a lower IQ go on to not only act superior when they encounter another race but believe they are of a higher caliber thus supporting the question of nitwits being overconfident.

Well, as the old adage says, Ignorance is bliss.

On a positive note, I would think the smarter ones are careful about their belief they are smarter and a lot of our hopes are in them.

Photos: Shutterstock

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