A new behavioural study puts confidence ahead of talent.
Researchers in the US have found that people admire the cocky and unctuous, even when their pretensions are exposed.
‘Confidence is compelling to observers because, in the absence of information to the contrary, they assume it reflects superior ability.’
Actual talent appears to be irrelevant, they added. ‘It is important to note that being perceived to possess these valued characteristics is the key to attaining higher status – in fact, it is not necessary to actually possess these characteristics.’
The study, by academics at the University of Pennsylvania and California, is the first to suggest that the gloss of competence lingers even after it is shown to be a sham. While the mainstream theory holds that people found out as being over-confident are ‘punished’ by their peers, the US study indicated that social groups were much more tolerant of failure to match mouth with trousers.
‘If confidence creates persistent peer impressions of social skill or task ability, groups may not penalise confident individuals with lower status, even after discovering these individuals’ confidence is unjustified by their actual task skills,’ the authors said.
I have always maintained that confidence is primarily the key to success. It opens doors, even to those with less talent than others. The impression one gives is highly rated and is not always contingent on the skills one may have.
Presentation is a key factor, and that emanates from over-confidence and the ability to snare people into believing what you do not possess in terms of talent.
People in high positions are not necessarily equipped for the job. Their confidence bears no resemblance to reality. They are the elite of conmen who turn failure into a false vision of success.
Even governments today, and particularly in Britain, reward failure with a seat in the House of Lords – whereas bankers, whose catastrophic tenure brought the country to its knees, seem to move to other lucrative posts with ease and without any apparent hindrance as to their past record.
In brief, we are all actors on the world stage – and those of us bereft of any recognisable talent can still reign supreme with inflated confidence and a cockiness to boot.
It’s worth noting, however, that democracy as it is practised today needs redefining. The system lacks integrity and is manipulated to suit those in control.
Will we be able to change all that? Not while man’s greed for enrichment and power remains his driving force. And the omens are not encouraging.