Overestimating understanding… (or not)

A recent article in the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest got me thinking.  It’s called, “Most of us are overconfident about how much we understand things – this simple intervention can help” – and it describes a strategy to give people insight into their actual level of understanding about things.

It says that humans, in general, are prone to overestimate their own understanding of a wide variety of things, from common household objects to political policies. I have always frequently been accused of being overly modest and underconfident in my own knowledge and abilities, by parents, teachers, friends and work colleagues.  This applies to me still at work where, on paper (by level of qualification), I am an expert in my field, but I still feel like a beginner. I would rather say nothing than say something wrong, and I would rather decline something I’m not certain I can do. People who don’t know me well may think I am trying to abdicate responsibility for tasks I should be doing, or fish for compliments to stroke a fragile ego.

In academia, thinking all your successes are just down to fluke or “good luck” is often called “Imposter Syndrome” (and it’s pretty bang on for how I feel).  However, this article made me wonder whether people on the autism spectrum may have a more accurate awareness of their own knowledge in certain areas, and tend to be more realistic about (some of) their abilities. Many of my Aspie friends are incredibly hard to praise for their achievements, because they always strongly feel that they could have done better, and have not attained the level of perfection they require to feel the job was well done.

It also made me wonder whether ‘special interests’ may partly be our way of gathering what WE consider to be a sufficient amount of knowledge to thoroughly understand a topic, object or hobby, and be able to talk about it confidently to anybody without fear of getting something wrong.  After all, other people know *everything*, right…?

© Catastraspie, 2016.

 

 

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One Response to Overestimating understanding… (or not)

  1. VisualVox says:

    Reblogged this on Under Your Radar and commented:
    Another good piece – interesting. Glad I’m finding this now… lots of good stuff when I dig deeper 🙂

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