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Science

Overconfidence May Be a Result of Social Politeness 263

Posted by samzenpus
from the tell-it-like-it-is dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Joyce Ehrlinger from Florida State University has researched this very phenomenon, and has led her to present a paper called 'Polite But Not Honest: How an Absence of Negative Social Feedback Contributes to Overconfidence' at the American Psychological Association's annual conference in Orlando on Friday. Social norms, Ehrlinger says, are the reason that we are averse to giving negative feedback. Her research recreated everyday social situations in which we hold back from giving our own negative views."
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Overconfidence May Be a Result of Social Politeness

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  • Noooo (Score:1, Insightful)

    by theRunicBard (2662581) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:23AM (#40852509)
    You mean if no one tells me I suck, I won't think I suck?
  • spoonful of sugar (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamnobody2 (859379) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:26AM (#40852521)
    negative feedback is acceptable if given constructively and pleasantly
  • Counterpoint (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:38AM (#40852577) Journal

    Anonymous Coward: FROST PIST

    What the Moderators do: -5 Off Topic
    What the Anonymous Coward sees: +5 Attention.

    This is not how negative feedback was supposed to work.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:47AM (#40852623)
    "Politeness" does not mean no negative feedback... and never has.

    One can be polite, and even friendly, while still giving negative feedback. This "no negative feedback" bullshit is a result of those defunct social theories that we had to bolster kids' self-esteem at the cost of truth.

    As far as I am aware, this is the first time this has been a significant problem. As polite as societies have been in the past, negative feedback has never, to the best of my knowledge, been a problem.
  • by steelfood (895457) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:52AM (#40852649)

    Depends on the person. Some people take negative feedback hard, and become discouraged. Some people take it well, and become driven to do better.

    Same with positive feedback, actually. Some people take it poorly and become overconfident. Some see it only as an affirmation of their progress.

    The only difference is, the person giving feedback would feel worse for giving negative feedback and having the person take it badly, than giving positive feedback with the negative reaction. This kind of feedback is ultimately not about the person receiving it, it's about the person giving it. It's about feeling good for that person, rather than doing good.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:55AM (#40852665)

    Joke aside, that's because your fellow slashdotters can destroy your comment reputation *anonymously*. You'd be surprised how ordinary, polite folks can turn into nasty, mean sonsabitches when they can hide their names and faces. TFA was dealing with people who know and see each other, and go out of their way to avoid social confrontation.

    This said, you deserve your comment reputation ruined :)

  • by CheshireDragon (1183095) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:05AM (#40852703) Homepage
    No, I think it means that people are going to generally be nice and say good job when you did actually suck. Therefore making you overconfident.
    This is why i always speak the truth, no matter how blunt.

    That is where the phrase, "Honesty doesn't always win friends, but it influences people." comes from.....I think
  • Re:Not news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gishzida (591028) <gishzidaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:07AM (#40852715) Journal

    Ever try to tell a Libertarian that has drunk the kool-aide that their free market liberty is swapping big government inefficiency [ineffectiveness which protects all of us -- read Heinlein] for a Darwinian construct that has no moral or ethical foundation? Libertarian Religion [sorry the political party and their weak sister Tea Baggers] is bad for the present and worse for the future... Don't they realize the "death panels" of "free market health care insurance" is already sitting-- they're called actuaries?

    So irrationality does not occur in just religion... it happens in politics and probably every other human endevor... If we were rational we would be a lot different than we are...

    My mother used to say: "Just because they are polite, doesn't mean they are nice."

    Remember that the next time your boss politely makes irrational demands and leaves you holding the bag.

  • Re:Not news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:18AM (#40852765)

    So irrationality does not occur in just religion... it happens in politics and probably every other human endevor...

    Yes, but you can have political debates. You can't have true religious debates: when people run out of argument, they pull the "faith" card and the discussion is over. And we're all supposed to respect faith as if it was unattackable by definition.

  • Re:Not news (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:21AM (#40852779)

    What is the point of arguing with religious persons? Religion requires one to ignore reality and the evidence to the contrary before them (that's why they have "faith"). You would not be a religious person if you did otherwise.

  • by gedankenhoren (2001086) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:26AM (#40852801)

    I have noticed two things related to this:

    1. The term `irony` is often used to refer to heavily-veiled passive aggression.

    1a. I think Millon provides a great description of the sort of behavior we all have encountered, although no longer (as of DSM-IV) considered a personality disorder: "They cannot decide whether to adhere to the desires of others [...] or to to turn to themselves [...], whether to be obediently dependent on others or defiantly resistant and independent of them, whether to take the initiative in mastering their world or to sit idly by, passively awaiting the leadership of others; they vacillate, then, like the proverbial donkey, moving first one way and then the other, never quite settling on which bale of hay is best. [...] ...only one essential trait is specified in characterizing the passive-aggressive personality type, that of resistance to external demands" (Millon 1981, Disorders of Personality, 244-245).

    1b. I think (1a) is part of the reason why you might say that "Americans don't get irony... [a]t all". You might be confusing their lack of appreciation for irony with their recognition of and consequent disregard for passive aggression. Also, irony is highly culturally dependent.

    2. My preferred method of dealing with the chronically overconfident is to ask kind and honest questions. I do not use irony; I do not use passive aggression; I do not throw punches. Instead, I assume that these people are telling the truth or overcompensating b/c of some hidden anxiety. In the first case, I think they're wrong; in the second, I think they're in need of growth. For either, I've found that the best response is to be gentle and to learn about their presuppositions.

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:26AM (#40852805) Journal

    negative feedback is acceptable if given constructively and pleasantly

     
    That's a nice notion, but unfortunately it only works some of the time, as different people react differently to different stimuli
     
    Some takes direct criticism well, others may not.
     
    Some are enlightened by the hinted enclosed within the sweet-coating, but others do not
     
     

    Look there is a difference between being an A-hole and just saying it like it is. But sugar coating and wrapping criticism in a shroud of BS is counter productive and often leads people to 'not get it'.

    Not all "not getting it, some do
     
    As different people react differently to different stimuli, you do have to tailor-made (or customized) the criticism / sarcasm / suggestion to suit the personality of the intended target
     

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 02, 2012 @02:07AM (#40852997)

    Always? That's a good way to end up unemployed and with no friends to be blunt with.

    Which is why he's obviously lying.

  • by mrgiles (872216) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @02:12AM (#40853021)
    I agree with always being honest, but disagree with the need to be blunt. I have learned over the years that it is better to work with people than against them.
  • by sick_soul (794596) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:08AM (#40853257)

    In my experience this overconfidence as a result of politeness is true in my workplace, and in past workplaces as well.

    Being generally polite, and not giving explicit negative feedback to annoying, unfunny, awkward, disrupting people finds justification in a kind of tacit, unconscious consent to be accepting and tolerant of everyone.
    This works kinda all right, and makes it for a peaceful, sometimes even happy environment, and reduces the chances for conflict.

    I have witnessed two scenarios where this politeness strategy fails utterly to both create a pleasant environment and to avoid conflict.

    One scenario is that of a massively disrupting individual, who is not aware of the consequences of his words and actions.
    Sometimes, like a current temporary colleague of mine, the guy is actually not a bad person at all, he is just not very perceptive of subtle signals (like awkward silences etc), looks very much emotionally vulnerable and unstable, which makes it undesirable to confront him about the issue, and has probably never been explicitly and seriously criticized for his disruptive behavior, resulting in a combination of fragility and overconfidence.
    Responding to such an individual seems to cause problems whichever strategy is employed (honesty, politeness, etc).

    The other scenario is that of a smart, socially-aware, perceptive, self-serving truly evil person.
    These people analyze these social situations carefully and are able to detect these weaknesses in the social construct, and take advantage of them. They are therefore able to belittle, disrupt, take advantage of, subvert, out-compete their co-workers, because they know that if they are subtle enough, if they target their attacks carefully enough, nobody will directly accuse them of anything.

    Note that I know that I myself have issues with detecting more subtle messages, and I know that my ego is vulnerable to lack of negative feedback as well. I try to ask people around me for truthful advice when in doubt, but in general I profit from this tolerant, polite social construct as well.

    I am not sure about how to organize a better social construct that is both honest and peaceful and tolerant, and I am not sure it is possible to do it in a perfect way for all situations and for all compositions of individuals.
    It seems to be a long standing problem with establishing and enforcing norms in societies.

  • by gorgonymus gorgward (1936324) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @03:28AM (#40853337)

    In every office, standing by the water cooler, there is a person. Let's call him Joe. Joe tells stories about his weekend, followed by jokes about his in-laws, and everyone politely laughs as they shuffle around him to get their cup of water. "Why does Joe continue telling these jokes?" everyone wonders.

    That's the first few lines of TFA.
    Later:

    Since society has taught us not to hurt other people's feelings, we rarely hear the truth about ourselves, even when we really deserve it. And sometimes that politesse can have negative ramifications.

    Now, let's translate them to other people who do not share your understanding of Islam:

    In every office, standing by the water cooler, there is a person. Let's call him Achmed. Achmed tells stories about his religion, followed by assumptions about how it is a religion of peace, and everyone politely agrees as they shuffle around him to get their cup of water. "Will he cut my head off if I tell him I think that is total BS?" everyone wonders.

    [...]

    Since society has taught us to expect our head to be cut off by any muslim we disagree with, we rarely hear the truth about ourselves, even when we really deserve it. And sometimes that fear can have negative ramifications.

    Except that you didn't read TFA and just shat a comment out of your hate filled mouth (keyboard).

    Why should I care (and why am I feeding the troll)?

    I'm not a muslim/theist anymore, but I was born muslim and have some family and friends who still are.

    None of them have ever cut my head off or that of any other person who disagreed with them. Nevertheless everyday I see scum such as you spewing hate left and right about shit you don't even care to try to understand and getting ignored (at best) or modded +1 I-too-hate/fear-muslims.

    (Yea I'm new here, I expect people to RTFA)

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @05:35AM (#40853915) Homepage

    Or you'd end up with politicians who reluctantly take upon themselves a big responsibility instead of a sociopath's powergrab.

  • by Rei (128717) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @05:43AM (#40853945) Homepage

    This is especially annoying when learning a language. I *want* people telling me all the time when I'm saying a word wrong or phrasing something poorly. But for most people, if they can understand what you meant to say, they just leave it at that. I just found out recently that after all this time, all of the times I had meant to say "I have been (verb-ing)" I'd instead been saying "I had been (verb-ing)". That's not a little mistake! Geez, people, why didn't anybody call me on it until now?

  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @06:23AM (#40854133)

    This may be US specific. As a French student in the US, I was amazed at how much attention was paid to feelings, and how little was paid to, you know, tangible reality, such as who was right or wrong in clear-cut cases where there *was* a right and wrong answer.

    Constant praise and tip-toeing around issues not only inspires overconfidence, it also deprives people from a chance to correct their mistake, and to learn to handle failure. And since people are not *that* stupid, it also gives them a strong sense that everything is fake. Constant praise is very much like no praise.

  • Re:Not news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @07:24AM (#40854569)

    Ever try to tell a Libertarian that has drunk the kool-aide that their free market liberty is swapping big government inefficiency [ineffectiveness which protects all of us -- read Heinlein] for a Darwinian construct that has no moral or ethical foundation?

    Ever try to argue rather than just tell people stuff? In a legitimate argument, you'd be corrected in that government, especially "big" government, is also a construct, possibly Darwinian as well, which has no moral or ethical foundation either. That's the case for most of human endeavors and tools. The hammer can be used to build a house or cave in someone's face. The hammer doesn't care which.

    Libertarian Religion [sorry the political party and their weak sister Tea Baggers] is bad for the present and worse for the future...

    Use of the excessively insulting term, "tea baggers" is not a sign of a serious argument. Calling a belief a "religion" merely because you disagree with it is not a sign of a serious argument.

    Don't they realize the "death panels" of "free market health care insurance" is already sitting-- they're called actuaries?

    No, and you don't either. The actuary just reports actual rates of some occurrence, here, death, illness, etc in a population. They make no decision over how much treatment is enough.

    When treatment is not a function of the wallet of the patient, then someone has to decide when too much treatment has been given. It almost never will be the patient and family who isn't paying the cost of their treatment directly. That's when the so-called "death panels" come in. Someone has to control costs or the medical system in question ceases to function.

  • Re:Counterpoint (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrekkieGod (627867) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @07:53AM (#40854789) Homepage Journal

    Anonymous Coward: FROST PIST

    What the Moderators do: -5 Off Topic What the Anonymous Coward sees: +5 Attention.

    This is not how negative feedback was supposed to work.

    The goal of the moderation here isn't to teach the dude the error of his ways. It wasn't meant to punish him. I don't care if he was gratified by the "attention" he got. If he did, more power to him, let him keep posting it.

    The point is that I don't browse at -1, so I didn't see his comment. Slashdot was therefore a better experience for me, and the moderation worked exceedingly well.

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