Overconfidence in Self-Efficacy

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In cognitive and educational psychology, overconfidence is a phenomenon that emerges in self-assessment situations such as one that requires students to measure self-efficacy.

Many research studies have discovered that humans tend to recall positive personality traits more readily over negative ones, evaluate themselves more positive over others, overestimate their abilities and overestimate the depth of their understanding.)

According to Sowa (2000), [1] up until the twentieth century, three assumptions described by Max Born in 1949 were dominant in the definition of causality: [2]

This article is about the effect of overconfidence on learning and motivational constructs such as performance and metacognition.


Overconfidence, in an educational psychology setting, is a phenomenon in which a person’s confidence (typically self-efficacy) in his or her performance on a task is significantly (statistically) higher than his or her actual task performance. Many studies done on overconfidence have used the same ranking or scoring construct for both measuring confidence and evaluating actual performance. For instance, in a study based on the game Mastermind, the participants rated their self-efficacy in the form of numbers of trials required before reaching correct solutions, which is also how performance is generally evaluated in the game.[cite Vancouver]

Overconfidence in Self-Efficacy and Motivational Constructs

In the Social Cognitive Theory, behavioral, cognitive and environmental constructs interact with each other reciprocally. Thus, under such view it is generally accepted that self-efficacy is a strong, positive predicator of performance. [cite bandura] Even then, relatively little is known about the effect self-efficacy judgments have on learning and motivational constructs like performance, goal orientation and affect.

Overconfidence in Self-Efficacy

There has been a considerable amount of research that lent support to the predictive and mediational role of self-efficacy in learning [cite MAddux and other stuff from Pajares]; however, there has also been some correlational studies that exhibited non-positive correlations between self-efficacy and performance. For example, in a study done on mathematics performances of eighth grade gifted and regular education students, Frank Pajares discovered that even though gifted girls surpassed gifted boys in performance, the two groups did not differ in self-efficacy. In addition, even though most students observed were overconfident, gifted students tend to be better calibrated (or overconfident by a smaller margin) than regular education students. The correlations shown in this study alone seemed to have revealed a more complicated picture of self-efficacy than one that strictly correlates positively with performance.

Some research studies have pointed out that overconfidence in self-efficacy occurs more readily in cognitive complex tasks [cite stone], especially in ones involving causal explanations [cite keil].

Negative Effects of High Self-Efficacy

Even though high self-efficacy is thought to be a positive predictor of performance, a number of papers have documented otherwise.

Overconfidence and Effort

Overconfidence and Performance



Other references


  • Abdoullaev, A. (2000)The Ultimate of Reality: Reversible Causality, in Proceedings of the 20th World Congress of Philosophy, Boston: Philosophy Documentation Centre, internet site, Paideia Project On-Line: http://www.bu.edu/wcp/MainMeta.htm
  • Green, Celia (2003). The Lost Cause: Causation and the Mind-Body Problem. Oxford: Oxford Forum. ISBN 0-9536772-1-4 Includes three chapters on causality at the microlevel in physics.
  • Judea Pearl (2000) Causality: Models of Reasoning and Inference [1] Cambridge University Press ISBN-13: 978-0521773621
  • Rosenberg, M. (1968). The Logic of Survey Analysis. New York: Basic Books, Inc.


See Also

  • Processes and Causality by John F. Sowa, retrieved Dec. 5, 2006.
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