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Trends Cogn Sci. 1997 May;1(2):78-82. doi: 10.1016/S1364-6613(97)01014-0.

Confidence in judgment.


Experiments have shown that, generally, people are overconfident about the correctness of their answers to questions. Cognitive psychologists have attributed this to biases in the way people generate and handle evidence for and against their views. The overconfidence phenomenon and cognitive psychologists' accounts of its origins have recently given rise to three debates. Firstly, ecological psychologists have proposed that overconfidence is an artefact that has arisen because experimenters have used question material not representative of the natural environment. However, it now appears that some overconfidence remains even after this problem has been remedied. Secondly, it has been proposed that overconfidence is an artefactual regression effect that arises because judgments contain an inherently random component. However, those claiming this appear to use the term overconfidence to refer to a phenomenon quite different from the one that the cognitive psychologists set out to explain. Finally, a debate has arisen about the status of perceptual judgments. Some claim that these evince only underconfidence and must, therefore, depend on mechanisms fundamentally different from those subserving other types of judgment. Others have obtained overconfidence with perceptual judgments and argue that a unitary theory is more appropriate. At present, however, no single theory provides an adequate account of the many diverse factors that influence confidence in judgment.

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