Confidence + Confidence = Over-confidence?

Over Confidence Picture Cartoon Inflated Ego Weekly Show

I’ve been thinking lately, and not just about Pokémon and food. I’ve met many smart people in my life, all of whom deserve to feel proud and confident of their ideas. Yet some of them exude more self-assuredness than others, a fierce conviction that borders dogma. What is the difference between confidence and over-confidence?

Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” This begins to embody our question. Some friends of mine, for instance, are sure of themselves in an unflattering way. It is one thing to believe you have a valid point; it is something else to believe your point is undeniably correct.

Over Confidence Picture Cartoon Inflated Ego Weekly Show

At what point does self-assuredness become detrimental?

Part of the inspiration for this post came from dinner with a friend last week. She is a smart person, and I respect her. Even so, if you mention her name to someone, the first topic to come up is how aggressive she is with her opinions. I alluded to this at dinner by way of asking why she argues so forcefully in even the silliest discussions. Her response went something like this: “I’m not overconfident, Andrew. I have constructed an argument, and other people are insinuating it is wrong. I am simply defending what I believe to be true—I wouldn’t argue for something I don’t believe in.”

What bothers me in particular about this outlook is the hostility toward alternative interpretations. Though it certainly has its time and place, framing all discussions like this has its pitfalls. First, it suggests first that there exists a right and wrong in every situation. This is closed minded. Second, it assumes that solutions and conclusions are singular, which paves the way for dogma.

Over Confidence Picture Cartoon Cat Dogs Funny Meme Weekly Show

“Those does have no idea what’s coming for them.”

The most inspiring moments in my life have been instances of discovery, but not in the traditional sense of empowerment. Every day I develop a fuller appreciation of the saying “The more I see, the less I know.” While I become more confident in my abilities and passionate about certain topics as I learn, it becomes strikingly clear to me there are many ways of understanding the same situations. I am inspired by the vastness of the unknown, the potential for learning, and our ever-growing insignificance. We sit on a lonely rock orbiting a lonely star in a snapshot of space and time…if there is one takeaway, it is that there is much we do not know.

In this week’s episode of Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out that science doesn’t care about name or reputation. All that matters is the quality of your facts and the logic of your argument. As soon as we embrace an idea for the wrong reasons, however, we hold ourselves back. Overconfidence can thus be characterized as believing for the wrong reasons. While my friend might not like to admit it, she believes her opinions not because of their logic but because she has accepted them as true. The emotional attachment undermines her validity as a thinker. As soon as we become convinced of something “because it is right,” we lose the ability to question it.

I need to go to sleep, so I’m going to postpone this thought for now. I can write/ramble more about this in a future post. If you want to hear more about food, Pokémon, music, and science, go ahead and check me out on Twitter. As always, please share, like, comment, and subscribe if you like the post. Don’t forget to subscribe for more science/ramblings every Wednesday–it’s FREE!

Comment question of the week

Where does confidence become over-confidence? Is Mark Twain right?

You might also like:

How Earth Destroyed the Ninth Planet

You Are Made of Beautiful Stardust

Is It Okay to Question Science?

In the news:

How to Be More Confident: 5 Research Backed Methods (TIME)

Jon Hamm: Over-Confidence Is Delusional (Yahoo)

Christiane Amanpour Calls “Confidence Gap” B.S. (NY Mag)

Are faith and science compatible?

Darwin Fish Evolution Faith Science Compatible Weekly Show

Since this blog’s inception, I’ve tried to keep it as non-partisan as possible. Regular readers can probably deduce my leanings, but I have purposely strayed from any controversial subjects. Today that ends. With the near year this blog is going to address some of the most controversial topics in science and shed some much-needed light on important issues. First up: the relation between faith and science.

Before diving in, let me clarify the question. I am not asking whether science and religion can coexist. Many scientists are religious and have been for centuries. This is a fact. Rather, I want to explore whether science and religion make sense together, if they are compatible systems of discovery. Let’s stir the water.

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Is it okay to question science?

Scientific Skepticism Crazy Idiot Lunatic Climate CO2 Obama Protesters Denier Weekly Show

In the early nineteenth century, phrenology was the talk of every town. The up and coming discipline examined the shape and contours of the skull to deduce a person’s psychological traits. By simply running his fingers across a skull, an expert could uncover amazing details about the person’s life, including spirituality and submissiveness. Except phrenology was nonsense, a pseudoscience used by many to justify American slavery.

Of course, many were critical of phrenology’s claims. Skeptics pointed to the questionable methodologies and lack of scientific guidelines. Others simply did not believe its outlandish claims. History would prove these skeptics correct, dismissing the faux discipline and shoving its findings off the table.

PHrenology Django Racist Slavery Bullshit Fake Faux False not True Brain Skull Head Weekly Show Skepticism

If nothing else, phrenology serves of an example of the scientific community’s fallibility.

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Blindsight: the mysterious condition that allows blind people to see

Weekly Show Brain Blindsight Consciousness Brain Blindsight Questions Philosphy

Want to see something crazy? Check out this video of a blind man attempting an obstacle course.

Now, before you go to the comments to tell me what a terrible person I am, know that the blind man signed up for this. He opted into the test to demonstrate…wait a minute. Unbelievable. He aced it. Even though this man is cortically blind—literally cannot see a thing—he navigates the perilous hallway with perfection. What is going on?

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This experiment will make you lose faith in humanity

On March 16, 1964, 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was attacked by a serial rapist and murderer while walking back to her apartment in New York. Genovese screamed and pleaded for help for over half an hour as the assailant stabbed and raped her, eventually killing her and fleeing. Though neighbors overheard the majority of the attack, the New York Times reported that none interfered or called the police until after it was over. Four years later, social psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané set out to discover why.

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