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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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  • 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
    • Re:spoonful of sugar (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:34AM (#40852549)

      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'. If one does something wrong, say it, and say it straight forward, no sugar, no BS.

      • 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 Deus.1.01 (946808)

          I lived a year and a half with some friends in collective.
          We shared a fridge, and I had a top shelf...and i had a tendency to sorta pile my jars and such so they fell over. My rather...grumpy and several synonymous of that adjective friend did point that out.
          If something spilled it would land on his shit.

          One day I noticed some sticky brown sauce on his shelf and groceries...was a bit of a mystery at first, wasn't sure if it was a red wine vinegar bottle or not, until I assured him that it was.

          Well...I was

          • I don't think anyone is claiming you should stand there and take it.. if someone was being that much of an asshole to my flatmates as well as just me, and then had the gall to physically hit me while I was trying to help tidy up, I'd probably punch him in the solar plexus. That might have shocked him enough to think about how much of an asshole he was being, or at least to stop treating you like a doormat.

            I often try to be patient with bad situations, and usually I'm quite shy and unwilling to risk insultin

        • by Deorus (811828)

          Some takes direct criticism well, others may not.

          How they take it is their problem, not yours. You only have to make sure that the information is delivered correctly.

          • by ultranova (717540)

            How they take it is their problem, not yours. You only have to make sure that the information is delivered correctly.

            If you don't care about the end result, why get involved in the first place?

            • by Deorus (811828)

              If you don't care about the end result, why get involved in the first place?

              I seldom get involved in anything except when I see people complain about something that I have a formed opinion about (in this case I am more interested in knowing whether I am right or in having my opinion refuted) or when my judgement is explicitly requested (in which case I would not be honest if I sugar coated my opinion). It is extremely uncommon for me to criticize anything directly unless it has a direct impact in my life a

    • by vencs (1937504)

      negative feedback is acceptable if given constructively and pleasantly

      its a convincing point, but the problem seems to be with the three terms (negative, constructively, pleasantly) in the statement which are relative and vary from person to person.

    • Re:spoonful of sugar (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:45AM (#40852605)

      negative feedback is acceptable if given constructively and pleasantly

      Not always. When I was a kid, I was a real brat and a complete nuisance at school, both for my schoolmates and for teachers, and didn't realize it. School officials tried time and time again to talk to me "about my future", call my parents in to have a chat about my latest antics in a pleasant, non-hurtful, Mr. Mackey sort of way, to no avail.

      And one day, 20 kids ganged up on me and beat the shit out of me outside school. I got the message. It was one of the most important lessons of my life.

      So no, being pleasant isn't always constructive.

      • by EzInKy (115248) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:12AM (#40852733)

        So humans evolved manners so they could avoid getting the shit kicked out of them by their peers! Who would have thought?

      • by N1AK (864906)

        And one day, 20 kids ganged up on me and beat the shit out of me outside school. I got the message. It was one of the most important lessons of my life.

        I got in a lot of fights as a kid and had a lot of issues. The more people tried to force me to do things the more I'd fight back. I got lucky and after leaving 3 schools ended up in a specialist one which had an ethos of non-confrontation and staff who were trained to reason with students. It was a school of about 30 kids that a normal school couldn't contr

    • 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 u38cg (607297)
      Capitalise your sentences, you wanker.
  • Not news (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:36AM (#40852559)

    It's been just about impossible to criticize the religious beliefs of anyone for decades, and it's almost impossible to curb inappropriate and in-your-face religious behaviors because of the sacrosanct rule that religion is somehow immune to interference from the secular world, and that's why religious craziness around the world is on the rise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gishzida (591028)

      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 actuari

      • 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.

        • by flonker (526111)

          Faith is defined as "belief that is not based on proof." You can think of faith as being an axiom. "As classically conceived, an axiom is a premise so evident as to be accepted as true without controversy."

          That is why atheists arguing with believers is pointless. Each has their own axioms, and to change those would require an event that would cause them to re-examine their entire lives. An argument at a cocktail party or over teh interweb isn't going to do that.

        • Yes, but you can have political debates.

          You haven't actually been in any political debates have you?
           

          You can't have true religious debates: when people run out of argument, they pull the "faith" card and the discussion is over.

          People do the same thing in political debates too. Whether the issue is "which god is the almightiest" or "do people have a right to free health care", it's all faith.

          • by khallow (566160)
            There's also the matter of self-interest. For example, the fact of whether or not I benefit from a particular public policy change doesn't change no matter how or for how long someone argues.
        • It is. At least according to my mother. She always said "don't argue with crazy people".

        • by ultranova (717540)

          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.

          From what I've seen, both political and religious debates tend to degenerate into "everyone who disagrees with me is evil or stupid or both" pretty fast. There are numerous reasons for this, from trying to oversimplify the world to a kind of magical thinking where everything will be fine if you just perform certain rituals (oppose anything Ob

      • by u38cg (607297)
        More underwriters and claims managers. Us actuaries just tell you what risks cost in the future and what to charge for them now.
      • 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.

      • 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?

        Except that Darwin knew better. "Survival of the fittest" as interpreted by ideologues assumes that only the biggest, baddest, nastiest and most selfish will succeed. No cute little kittens or butterflies for them. No altruism for the sake of the whole (species) at the expense of the individual.

        Free markets aren't usually stable even absent external (e.g. government) meddling. They tend to degenerate into monopolies thanks to positive feedback processes. Or, more succinctly: "Nothing Succeeds like Success".

      • Makini Brice, I know you can write better ... if only someone would deliver the sad news: you have no brain, or your choose not to use it. You can't even come up with "bell the cat" or "free rider problem" while you pussy-foot through the bullshit slough? Not even the five-bell go-to cliches handed out as black-tie MSM fig leaves of faux decorum by the maitre-d' at the Michelin-rated nudist resort? Shame on you.

        I've belled more than my fair share of cats in my day, including some with a history of emerg

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • Re:Not news (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:32AM (#40852837)
      I tend to believe rather like Thomas Jefferson, I think, on this matter.

      "I never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed. I am satisfied that yours must be an excellent religion to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be judged." -- Thomas Jefferson

      "But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

      (But of course we have the objection that certain "religions" have done those very things, even today. In which case we might rightly oppose them.)

      "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

    • "It's been just about impossible to criticize the religious beliefs of anyone for decades"

      Try millenia, "blasphemy" at least in western Europe is very old, with punishment varying depending on the century & country.
  • by ClassicASP (1791116) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:38AM (#40852569)
    Joyce Ehrlinger from Florida State University is stupid! She has absolutely no idea what she's talking about! Pure rubbish! She should just drop out of the American Psychological Association right now and save us all a bunch of pain and headache! She has no idea what she's talking about! None! Pure bullox!
  • 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.

    • 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.

  • Well your faith in your friends is yours.
  • 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.
    • 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.

      I believe that it's related to the widespread confusion of form and substance.
      You can point at issues in someone's performance in a very nice manner and alternatively you can give some praise in a very displeasing way.

      It could also be connected to the fact that it's often confusing to like and not like something at the same time and possibly for the very same reasons (btw, that's ambivalence [wikipedia.org]).

      Encouraging someone does not require lying.

  • by pegasustonans (589396) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @12:54AM (#40852659)

    But what's the alternative when you're running an empire? Faith in your friends?

    I don't think so.

  • by dcollins (135727) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:39AM (#40852871) Homepage

    My interpretation: Social politeness did not spring up out of nowhere accidentally. There are good reasons for it. One is: The expected value to myself, if I were to correct some total stranger -- and risk their displeasure, argumentation, lost time, possible hostility -- is pretty much nil.

    What do I care if some doofus loudmouth on the bus, or a convenience store, or a random psychological experiment I got thrown in, thinks they're funny or has nutjob political or religious beliefs? The chance of my opinion changing them is close to zero. Aside from that, the time and hassle expense to my day is probably significant; the chance of their reacting in a defensive and hostile manner is pretty high. Aside from that, my chance of running into them again ever in my life, such that I receive some later benefit is also nil. Hence the politeness protocol of smiling noncommittally and getting the hell away from them.

    (Side issue: I've never understand "road age" of the ilk "I'll teach that bastard a lesson!". Given someone that cuts you off, you'll never see them again, so any lesson you could conceivably give won't generate you any benefit. Let 'em go and maximize your distance from the crazies.)

    Now, if someone is being truly irrational and is an intimate of yours, such that you have to deal with them all the time, then the equation changes; being honest with them will hopefully improve your mutual relationship and time spent together. Conjecture -- Perhaps a society which increases mobility, depersonalization, and time spent with strangers has a propensity to become more and more dishonest and delusional.

  • by matunos (1587263) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @01:47AM (#40852909)

    Any conversation over the internet should quickly solve that problem.

  • According to this theory, if you are dont get negative feedback it makes you confident so you act polite and dishonest then conversely if you get a lot of negative feedback it makes you unsure of yourself so you are rude but truthful. I get a lot of flack for pointing these kind of things out but this this theory is total bunk.

    OH SHIT! PARADOX!

  • by manwargi (1361031) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @02:20AM (#40853051)

    George Carlin [youtube.com] totally warned us.

  • 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 OzPeter (195038)

      One scenario is that of a massively disrupting individual, who is not aware of the consequences of his words and actions.

      Ah .. manager!

      The other scenario is that of a smart, socially-aware, perceptive, self-serving truly evil person.

      And let me guess? Salesperson?

  • by ricky-road-flats (770129) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @06:22AM (#40854129)

    I hate to bring up something like Americal Idol (and its predecessor Pop Idol) in somewhere like Slashdot, but I think it's relevant.

    In the UK Pop Idol, the judges were always honest - if they found someone who couldn't sing, they told them they couldn't sing. They told them to not give up the day job, to abandon their dream of being a pop star. On the flip side, if they were good, the judges said so - and because of that it really meant something.

    In the few bits of American Idol I've seen, it's totally different. The judges (I seem to remember Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson in particular) when presented with someone who clearly didn't have a hope in hell of becoming a star of any kind, tied themselves in knots trying to say something positive. They just didn't ahve it in them to say "You're not a singer, forget about it". They'd say "You need to work hard to improve your rhythm" or " You're great but you're just not what we're looking for", and so on. Simon Cowell gave much more honest opinions and built a huge business out of doing it - but he was seen as Captain Negativity, the joke one, with the other two encouraging the no-hopers to keep their dream.

    The result? People in the UK who got that negative feedback accept (sometimes reluctantly) that they won't ever be a star and go back to singing in the shower and leading a normal life. People in the US don't have that reality check, so keep on trying, making themselves look more and more ridiculous, desperate and above all untalented.

  • The UK is by far the most hypocritical place I've ever lived in with regards to honest feedback - around here the feedback you hear is always a 7 or an 8 on a scale of 10 (everything is great or wonderful, even when it's shit), to the point that if you comment that something was "nice" (i.e. a 6 out of 10), people feel insulted (you see, "nice" is what people say around here when they mean "not nice").

    Coming from Holland (home to some of the most direct, straight-talking people in the face of the planet), t

  • A: Konnichiwa
    B: Waaa, nihongo jouzu desu ne!!! :)

  • by flibbidyfloo (451053) on Thursday August 02, 2012 @11:55AM (#40857723)

    IMO the problem starts with a generation of parents that were told to only give positive feedback and encourage every little effort by their child to improve "self esteem". These children grew into adults that don't know how to handle *any* criticism, even when constructive. This resulted in social norms against being critical, even in a constructive way, because too many people were getting butt-hurt over every little criticism.

    And that's how we get a generation of jerks who think they are perfect.

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