Are you as wise as you think you are?

posted by Brian Mudd -

Are you as wise as you think you are? Most of us give ourselves a bit too much credit 

Bottom Line: Being confident in our knowledge and abilities is a good thing. Out kicking our coverage isn't. A new study has revealed that most of us have a sense of self that's a bit too healthy. A new study published in the Advances in Physiology Education journal was about as compelling as any I've seen regarding how we view our relative intelligence. The study took men and women of equitable academic performance in STEM fields (Math, physics and chemistry). They were placed in classes with one another and then questioned about how they felt they compared to the others. Hint, most thought they were smarter than the others. Keep in mind that everyone was equitable in comparison to one another.  

When they were asked how they compared against a specific student 

  • 61% of men thought they were smarter compared to 33% of women 

When asked how they felt they compared to the class as a whole: 

  • 66% of men thought they were smarter than most compared to 54% of women 

So, the takeaways are pretty instructive 

  • Men are more likely to overstate their intelligence than women but... 

  • Most people overestimate their abilities when compared to groups  

  • Women are far more likely to be realistic when given a specific comparison (while men are only mildly more realistic) 

Some other interesting takeaways included the primary language spoken by the group. This was conducted in the US so most had English as their primary language. For those who spoke English as their primary language regardless of gender, 61% thought they were smarter than those who spoke English as a second language (46% who spoke English as a second language thought they were smarter than the primary English students).  

There are a number of ways being unrealistic about one's level of knowledge can play out and almost all of them are negative. Since the average person, especially men, are likely to assume they're more informed than they actually are - it's a recipe for a credibility issue with those who are truly impressive and aware. I have a saying that seems to fit this information. Smart people know what they know, they know what they don't, and when speaking stick to what they know while continuing to become more informed the rest of the time.

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