TIME psychology

Over-Confident People Are Seen as Smarter, Even When They’re Not

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Fooling yourself can help you fool others into thinking you're not a fool

Turns out “fake it till you make it” is actually real. A new study found that over-confident students were more likely to be perceived as smart by their peers, regardless of their actual grades.

Researchers at Newcastle University and University of Exeter found that students who over-estimated their own grades tended to be perceived as more talented, and students who under-estimated their grades were seen as less talented, regardless of their actual capabilities. “Our results support the idea that self-deception facilitates the deception of others,” concluded Shakti Lamba and Vivek Nityananda in their study published Wednesday in Plos One. “Overconfident individuals were overrated and underconfident individuals were underrated.”

Because the study was focused on students studying psychology and anthropology, subjects that generally attract more female students, the sample size was female-biased. But while Lamba and Nityananda acknowledged that previous studies have found that men tend to be over-confident and women tend to be under-confident, their research found that gender had no effect on how people perceive self-assured men and women.

The researchers also warned that over-confidence can have more of an effect on individual decisions like picking a mate or hiring for jobs, resulting in self-deceptive and risk-prone people being promoted to powerful roles. “Promoting such individuals we may be creating institutions such as banks, trading floors and armies, that are also more vulnerable to risk,” they wrote.

In other words, even if you’ve made it, you’ll probably keep on faking it.

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