WHY YOU SYSTEMATICALLY OVERESTIMATE YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND ABILITIES – Overconfidence Effect

We tend to overestimate our knowledge, ability to predict events/future, own behaviour, etc. The overconfidence effect does not deal with whether single estimates are correct or not. Rather, it measures the difference between what people know and what they think they know.

Expert suffers more from overconfidence rather than normal laypeople. We have statistically proven data but we ignore it and overestimate our abilities and knowledge. Overconfidence has been called the most “pervasive and potentially catastrophic” of all the cognitive biases to which human beings fall victim.

The Illusion of Understanding

In The Black Swan, Taleb introduced the notion of a narrative fallacy to describe how flawed stories of the past shape our views of the world and our expectations for the future. Narrative fallacies arise inevitably from our continuous attempt to make sense of the world.

When we read about anything, our mind starts creating an illusion of understanding regarding those concepts or event. When we make any critical decision and that succeed then we give huge credit to our skills and underestimate the role of luck.

The core of the illusion is that we believe we understand the past, which implies that the future also should be knowable, but in fact, we understand the past less than we believe we do.

We try to learn many things from the success of others but we have to understand that things can be more different than what we are understanding.

Business – Management of any business easily fall under such bias, if they have a strong track record in past. Few managers have overconfidence in their ability to run a business. So that they acquire any business or plan for a new capex at the top of the business cycle at sky-high valuation. They just follow their intuition rather than follow data and facts. We should avoid businesses having such a manager for investment purpose.

Successful businesses also can meet failure in some of their ventures. Google has achieved success in the search engine, e-mail services, mobile operating system, video streaming, maps etc. but Google also has faced failure in social media platform such as Orkut, Google Plus.    

The Illusions of Pundits

Investment – When we have research and made investment decisions then we overestimate our knowledge and think that we cannot go wrong. Though the result shows that we have got wrong in past then also we blame it on external forces.

Everything makes sense in hindsight, a fact that financial pundits exploit every evening as they offer convincing accounts of the day’s events. And we cannot suppress the powerful intuition that what makes sense in hindsight today was predictable yesterday. The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future.

Few experts are becoming overconfident as they acquire more knowledge. They fall more under the illusion of skills. So that does not try to predict the future based on the past.

“The mistake appears obvious, but it is just hindsight. You could not have known in advance.”

When we see the 2008 financial crises now, we can say that such mistakes are obvious and should avoid. But we can only do it after it happens rather than during that period.

In conclusion: be aware that you tend to overestimate your knowledge. Be sceptical of predictions, especially if they come from so-called experts. And with all plans, favour the pessimistic scenario. This way you have a chance of judging the situation somewhat realistically. Experts miscalculate; championships change hands; and winners become losers.

We can save ourselves by killing our ideas.

When we are investing, we should write down every decision in an investment journal so that we can track the quality of our own decision. Also, we should prepare a checklist which helps us to reduce our emotions and improves decision.

This entire series will be review with various examples from books which are Thinking, Fast and Slow and The Art of Thinking Clearly.

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