Would You Rather A Confident or Competent Dr.?

Would you prefer a doctor who exercises caution before prescribing potentially dangerous drugs, or has a “What the hell, you have nothing to lose?” attitude?

The results of this study might surprise you: confidence trumped caution and, quite likely, competence. This research is described in The Invisible Gorilla. Confidence beats Competence. The authors note:

You will persuade more people and consequently have more success (at least in the short term) if you present your ideas confidently.

The authors point out that while faking confidence might be a viable short-term strategy, it likely won’t work in the long run nor will it be effective if so many people do it that confidence loses its signaling value.

I’d add another caveat: confidence combined with inaccuracy have a negative effect. I’ve had salespeople confidently tell me things I knew weren’t accurate. I immediately dismissed them as phonies. Had they expressed some doubt or offered to check the facts, I would have stayed engaged. Then again, perhaps they didn’t get caught often enough to force a strategy change.

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