Confidence is generally described as a state of being certain either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective. Self-confidence is having confidence in oneself. Arrogance or hubris in this comparison, is having unmerited confidence—believing something or someone is capable or correct when they are not. Overconfidence or presumptuousness is excessive belief in someone (or something) succeeding, without any regard for failure. Confidence can be a self-fulfilling prophecy as those without it may fail or not try because they lack it and those with it may succeed because they have it rather than because of an innate ability.
Self-confidence does not necessarily imply ‘self-belief’ or a belief in one’s ability to succeed. For instance, one may be inept at a particular sport or activity, but remain ‘confident’ in one’s demeanour simply because one does not place a great deal of emphasis on the outcome of the activity. When one does not dwell on negative consequences one can be more ‘self-confident’ because one is worrying far less about failure or the disapproval of others following potential failure. One is then more likely to focus on the actual situation which means that enjoyment and success in that situation is also more probable. Belief in one’s abilities to perform an activity comes through successful experience and may add to, or consolidate, a general sense of self-confidence.
Confidence in others
People may have confidence in other people or forces beyond their control. For instance, one might have confidence in the police to protect them, or might have confidence that a sports team will win a game. Faith and trust are synonyms of confidence when used in this sense.
It is suggested that the confidence bias can be explained by a noisy conversion of objective evidence (observation) into subjective estimates (judgment), whereas noise is defined as the mixing of memories during the storing (observing/learning) and retrieval process (remembering / judgement). The information-theoretic logic behind this explanation is very similar to the mechanism that can also lead to the conservatism bias, and holds that we mix true and false evidence during storage and retrieval of evidence to and from our memories. The confidence bias results because as judges we “look inside our own memory” (evaluate our confidence) and find evidence that is more extreme than when we retrieve evidence for our judgements (which are conservative due to mixing of extreme values during retrieval). This explanation is very simple and straightforward, but nevertheless sufficient mechanism to generate both, overconfidence (in situations where judges are very sure) and underconfidence (in cases when judges openly state to lack the required knowledge).
- ^Martin Hilbert (2012) “Toward a synthesis of cognitive biases: How noisy information processing can bias human decision making”. Psychological Bulletin, 138(2), 211–237; free access to the study here: http://www.martinhilbert.net/HilbertPsychBull.pdf