daniel kahneman: overconfidence is about lack of imagination

… when you look globally at people’s actions, overconfidence is endemic. I mean we have too much confidence in our beliefs, and overconfidence really is associated with a failure of imagination. When you cannot imagine an alternative to your belief, you are convinced that your belief is true. That’s overconfidence.daniel kahneman

first of all, daniel kahneman sounds nothing like i thought he would and that’s cool. he sounds much more humble and kind than the length of his book suggests to me that he is. i imagined him as a pompous blowhard (as i’ve noticed are most people who write long-ass books). assumptions, right? yikes.

second of all, i wasn’t expecting this line at all in his on being interview, but it is so good. overconfidence is/must be tied to inability to believe that anything else is possible. if you could imagine other possibilities, you wouldn’t be able to be overconfident.

and, in a weird sense, this ability to imagine other options sort of shifts the weight of where confidence lies. like, if you are overconfident, you are overconfident in yourself, your choices. but when you’re just confident, what you are confident in is your ability to handle whatever comes. maybe?

either way, i think overconfidence gets us into trouble in lots of places. in our political system is one obvious place. but even in our own lives, i think it hurts us. when we are overconfident that things are going to go a certain way and we don’t plan or leave time for flexibility in pathways towards goals… that also happens.

and, in my mind, the biggest problem with overconfidence is that if/when you are wrong , it hurts a lot. you’ve put all your eggs in a basket or all your energy into one plan or option. and if it doesn’t work out, you’re unable to recover from it. it leads us to take unnecessary risks that can end up really harmful.

anyway, just wanted to do a little musing on that thought. turns out, kahneman is a brilliant dude that i like a lot. cool cool cool.


extended quote

Mr. Kahneman: … what I meant to say was that when you look globally at people’s actions, overconfidence is endemic. I mean we have too much confidence in our beliefs, and overconfidence really is associated with a failure of imagination. When you cannot imagine an alternative to your belief, you are convinced that your belief is true. That’s overconfidence. And overconfidence — whenever there is a war, there were overconfident generals. You can look at failures, and overconfidence had something to do with them. On the other hand, overconfidence and overconfident optimism is the engine of capitalism. I mean entrepreneurs are overconfident. They think they’re going to be successful. People who open restaurants in New York think they’ll succeed; otherwise, they wouldn’t do it. But at least two-thirds of them have to give up within a few years — more than two-thirds, probably…

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