Examples of Overconfidence

Overconfidence refers to a biased way of looking at a situation. When you are overconfident, you misjudge your value, opinion, beliefs, or abilities, and you have more confidence than you should given the objective parameters of the situation. Learn the meaning of overconfidence in psychology, and explore examples of three different types.

overconfident businessman with star on suit overconfident businessman with star on suit

What Is Overconfidence in Psychology?

It's easy to think of overconfidence as having more confidence in one's abilities than one should have, but there is an actual definition of overconfidence in psychology. The American Psychological Association defines overconfidence as, "a cognitive bias characterized by an overestimation of one’s actual ability to perform a task successfully, by a belief that one’s performance is better than that of others, or by excessive certainty in the accuracy of one’s beliefs."

Examples: When People Are Overconfident

Overconfidence bias can cause people to experience problems because it may keep them from properly preparing for a situation or may cause them to get into a dangerous situation they are not equipped to handle. Review some examples of the three main types of overconfidence to help better understand the concept.

Overestimation as a Type of Overconfidence

Overestimation is the belief that you are better at something than the reality of your skills or abilities would indicate. A person with this type of overconfidence overestimates what they are able to do.

  • A person who thinks their sense of direction is much better than it actually is could show overconfidence by going on a long trip without a map and refusing to ask for directions if they get lost along the way.
  • An individual who thinks they are much smarter than they actually are is a person who is overconfident. The person could show their overconfidence by choosing not to study for tests, thinking that they're so smart that they don't really have to study. As a result, they could end up with much lower scores than they could otherwise have received.
  • A person who thinks they have a photographic memory and a detailed understanding of a subject could show overconfidence by deciding not to study for a test they have to take on the subject, thus doing poorly on the test due to lack of preparation.
  • A person who thinks they are a great boxer and who challenges someone who is an amazing fighter to a boxing match is overestimating their abilities. The person who was overconfident and who was mistaken about their actual boxing abilities could end up getting badly defeated in the fight as a result of overconfidence.
  • A person who has never swum before decides to try out for the varsity swimming team without practicing because they are overconfident in their athletic abilities. Their overconfidence could keep them off the team and make them the butt of many jokes by members of the swimming team.

Overplacement as a Type of Overconfidence

Overplacement is the belief that you are better than other people. It involves comparing yourself to others with regards to a skill or ability and making the assumption (often erroneously) that you are better than the majority of other people at something.

  • A student who is convinced that they are the smartest person in the class, or at least smarter than most of their classmates, is exhibiting the type of overconfidence known as overplacement. Even if this person gets worse grades, they are still convinced they're smarter.
  • A person is so convinced they are going to be accepted to Harvard, which accepts only the most elite students, that they apply. This indicates they believe they are better than the majority of other students, including those who are applying to Harvard. Such overplacement could lead to someone not being accepted to college at all.
  • People who have no credentials at all and yet feel that you should listen to their ideas about your health rather than to those of your physician have this type of overconfidence. Such individuals are generally very forceful in their opinions and even take offense if you don't take their advice.
  • A person who thinks they are invaluable to their employer when, in reality, almost anyone could actually do their job might show overconfidence by coming in late to work because they think they are so irreplaceable that they'll never get fired. They may also be overly demanding about getting a raise and threatening to quit if they don't get their way.
  • Someone who cannot sing at all but who believes they can sing better than most people, on par with professional singers, might just be overconfident enough to try out for American Idol and actually expect to win. When such a person submits an audition tape, they could end up being laughed at or ridiculed, which will shock them.

Overprecision as a Type of Overconfidence

Overprecision is a sense of certainty that you, more so than others, know the truth or reality of what is going to occur in the future. A person experiencing this kind of overconfidence erroneously believes they have some special insight that gives them an edge when it comes to knowing what is to come.

  • Overprecision is very common in casino gambling. Someone who is certain they know what's coming up next in a deck of cards or is going to hit on a roulette wheel could end up facing financial ruin as a result of their overconfidence in the form of overprecision.
  • A person who is overly confident about how a stock might perform and so invests in extremely high-risk stocks even if conventional wisdom would indicate to do otherwise has the type of overconfidence that could be described as overprecision.
  • An individual who is not an election researcher but is convinced that they know with certainty what the outcome of an election will be (without facts or statistical predictions to back it up) is exhibiting this type of overconfidence.
  • A person who thinks their spouse or partner will never ever leave because their love is too strong might try to take advantage of the spouse or partner due to the overconfidence in the future trajectory of the relationship, thus driving the spouse away.
  • A presidential candidate who is confident they are going to win and who doesn't bother to aggressively campaign as a result of overconfidence, is a form of overprecision. The overconfidence could cost them the election.

The Overconfidence Effect

These examples all illustrate situations where people think that they are more capable or better equipped for a situation than they actually are. While anyone can be a bit overconfident at times, for some people being overconfident is a trait. When a person regularly views themselves as better or more knowledgeable than they really are, that results in what is referred to as the overconfidence effect.

It's important to have self-confidence, but that should be paired with an accurate self-concept. Now that you know what overconfidence is and have reviewed some examples, expand your knowledge of psychology. Expand your journey by exploring some basic psychology terms and their meanings.