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Psychology: perceptions of competence

I read some research over the weekend that suggested that we all tend to think we are more competent at the things we do, than we actually are. This would seem to indicate over confidence in our own abilities. In some cultures affirmations are popular.

There seems to be  a need to constantly congratulate oneself and others on every little success. This appears to lead to self assurance and confidence, but does it lead to a false sense of competence? Can a whole community or even a whole society become over-confident or under-confident if they don’t receive those psychological rewards?

In some societies punishments rather than rewards are popular and in particular corporal punishments for children. Children can become conditioned to expect a punishment if they fail to meet expectations and go on to develop a severe lack of confidence in later life. Many countries are now examining whether corporal punishment is counter productive.

Should you reassure your child constantly rather than punishing the child frequently? Do the constant affirmations of love lead to more confidence or over-confidence? It would seem many people have a lot of confidence, but choose careers where a lot of competence isn’t necessarily needed. Confident people often go into management, banking and politics, but are they competent or simply over confident?

Our perceptions of ourselves, aren’t always the perceptions that others have of us. The reactions that we get from others aren’t always honest. To some extent we all seem deluded about who and what we are. Should we really care about what others think? Is our reputation important? Most people, even those who are over confident would agree that reputation is important. What we say and think and what we really think deep down, can be conflicting. We might say that we are confident and competent, but deep down, feel unsure and uncertain.

Perceptions of ourselves seem unreliable and so we do need to be appraised and assessed by others. We do need their approval and we do need those positive affirmations that we are not only competent at what we do, but that we are worthy and likeable people too. On the surface we might not care what people think, but deep down, we need their approval.

Do you have thoughts to share? Please use the comments box. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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