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Overconfident folks may blind others to their real abilities

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(HealthDay News) -- Overconfident people are better at convincing others that they're more talented than they really are, and therefore are more likely to get promotions and reach high-level positions, a new study indicates.

The researchers added that these "self-deceived" people are also more likely to overestimate other people's abilities and to take greater risks.

And finally, people who underestimate themselves are regarded as less capable by their colleagues, according to the British researchers. Their findings were published Aug. 27 in the journal PLoS One.

The study included 72 university students who, on the first day of a course, were asked to predict their own and other students' final marks. Fifteen percent of the students made accurate predictions, 45 percent underestimated their scores and 40 percent were overconfident.

Students who predicted higher marks for themselves were also predicted to have higher grades by others, whether or not that turned out to be true.

"These findings suggest that people don't always reward the most accomplished individual but rather the most self-deceived. We think this supports an evolutionary theory of self-deception," study co-lead author Vivek Nityananda, a research associate at Newcastle University, said in a university news release.

"It can be beneficial to have others believe you are better than you are and the best way to do this is to deceive yourself -- which might be what we have evolved to do," Nityananda added.

"This can cause problems as overconfident people may also be more likely to take risks," he said.

Study co-author Dr. Shakti Lamba, of the University of Exeter, added: "If overconfident people are more likely to be risk prone then by promoting them we may be creating institutions, such as banks and armies, that are more vulnerable to risk."

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics explains how to help children develop healthy self-esteem.

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