Ignorance and Overconfidence!


Have you ever come across people who are utterly ignorant about an issue and yet overly confident of their stand on it? Do you feel irritated by it? I do. But reading “Thinking, Fast and Slow” made me realize that it is not always ignorance and confidence. It might as well be ignorance, hence confidence.

The book is content heavy and it is going to take me sometime to write the summary. But I though of sharing some interesting bits and pieces from the book. The author talks about an experiment where participants were exposed to a legal scenario. There were three groups of participants.

  • All three groups read the background material, which provided the facts of the case.
  • Two groups were exposed to the presentation made by the lawyer of one party each (they read only one side’s argument).
  • The third group read the presentation of both the lawyers.

Then they were asked for their judgment.

Here were the outcomes:

  • The participants hearing one side of arguments had all the necessary information (due to explanatory background material) to be able to construct the other side of the argument too. But they did not do that. Their judgment had pronounced effect of the argument of the side they heard.
  • The above may not be surprising, but this one takes the cake. The people who had been exposed to only one side of the argument were more confident of their judgment than those who had heard both the sides.

As they say, ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is confidence as well. So, next time someone irritates you with their ignorance and overconfidence, try not to ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by “ignorance”. 🙂