from Ross Pomeroy, Real Clear Science:
Confidence, being certain that a prediction or a chosen course of action is correct, is widely considered a positive state of being. But when taken too far it can quickly turn negative. Overconfidence, having unrealistic certainty, has been linked to unemployment, market inefficiencies, and even the Great Recession.
In a study published Monday to the journal PLoS ONE, psychologists Jonathan Schulz and Christian Thöni, respectively of Yale University and the University of Lausanne, sought to examine whether a correlation exists between overconfidence and career choice, indicated by the student's chosen field of study.
To find out, Schulz and Thöni surveyed 711 first-year students from the University of St. Gallen and the University of Zurich in Switzerland. The students were brought into the lab in various group sizes and undertook numerous experiments during a session that lasted roughly an hour and a half. Amongst the experiments was a simple task. Subjects were presented with five historical events and were asked to guess the year each occurred. Examples included the reactor accident in Chernobyl and the first flight of the supersonic jet Concorde. Subjects scored more highly the closer their estimates were to the actual date of the events. Lastly, they were instructed to rank their performance amongst their peers. The difference between the ranks they gave themselves and their actual ranks (normalized to a 12-rank scale) served as the measure of overconfidence.
The most overconfident students were in the political sciences. On average, they overestimated their rankings by 1.4 places. Students majoring in law, administration, and economics also tended to over place themselves, but nowhere near the degree of political science majors. Students in the humanities significantly underestimated their rankings.
The entire can be read here.