Overprecision causes and consequences

Over-precision is defined as human tendency to be sure judgements and decisions are accurate, uninterested in testing our assumptions and dismissive evidence that suggests we might be wrong. This leads us to draw narrow confidence intervals and to be too certain that we know the truth. We are more confident than we deserve to be regarding accuracy of our knowledge. Most of us are overconfident in the precision of our beliefs.


Perceived experts are even more over-precise. People predict to perform better in domains where they are perceived experts. For instance: an experiment asked students to answer questions about IT. Participants who had “more precise” knowledge specified narrower confidence intervals. Too narrow ranges failed to capture correct answers.

People act as if they know the truth. In uncertain situations, they draw too narrow intervals and fails to shift their actions. Individuals underestimate uncertainties involved.

Real life situations

Excess confidence can have potential adverse effects. Consider a surgeon who persuades to agree on operation. The likelihood of survival is 95%. If the patient does, was he one of the 5% unlucky ones or did the surgeon make overprecise estimation? In 1997, Korean air flight 801 crashed because the pilot was “sure” what he was doing and did not listen to concerns of flight engineers.

Good managers realistically appraise risks, dangers and errors. They make forecasts of uncertain events such as number of people to hire, manufacturing plants to build, units to produce and so on. This depends on future sales.


Internal dissonance

Over-precision springs from the desire to relieve internal dissonance (state of tension) regarding the right decision (course of action). People in a stressful state of tension feel motivated to relieve this dissonance, even if this requires them to change what they believe.


Outward expression of confidence help others to feel sure about us. Those who express confidence, earn trust, credibility and status. We find confident people more persuasive. Consequently, we see them as more capable and thus tend to elevate in the positions of status and influence.

Byproduct of cognitive processes

Human mind is better at searching memory for evidence that confirms our beliefs. It is easier for us to generate supportive evidence. We overestimate the accuracy of out knowledge and truth of our tentative hypothesis. The process occurs automatically without conscious awareness.


Reluctance of feedback and advice

Over-precision makes us too reluctant to take advice from others, being suspicious of those whose views differ from our own. We are too quick to act on our opinions and too slow to update our beliefs. Reluctant to revise our beliefs, we tend to ignore feedback from others on the problems that we face. Rationally thinking, we should weight others’ knowledge equally with our own and average the estimates. However, we give substantially less weight to others’ advice (including very useful advice) than our own opinions and our accuracy suffers as a result.

Naive realism

Thinking that the way we see the world is the only sensible way, we are subjects to naive realism. Considering others’ perspective takes energy and attention. This requires us to move from comfortable familiarity of how we are used ti seeing the things to the unfamiliar vantage point of an outside view. We assume that those who see things differently are either stupid (not seeing the facts right) or evil (seeing the truth but misrepresenting it for their own ends). We are unwilling to consider other perspectives and find common ground.

Faith in judgements

When we have too much faith in our own judgements, we face difficulties to accurately predict e.g. work performance. We are biased in interview processes, personnel selection and other. Interviews are not actually predictive of future performance. Instead, managers should use analytical tests such as IQ tests.


Psychological and social forces push as towards unwanted self-assurance. This happens in an unconscious level. Here are some recommendations that might help to avoid this.

Interventions that force people to think alternatively and induce greater realism are often effective at shaking overconfidence. Thinking about why you might be wrong can help us correct for the influence of the confirmation bias. For instance: one could ask for the likelihood of alternative outcomes. This could increase the accuracy of our judgements. We could also anticipate our biases, correct them and thus avoid errors they cause.

Adapted from

Bazerman, M.H. and Moore, D.A., 1994. Judgment in managerial decision making (p. 226). New York: Wiley.

Multiple selves theory

Decision making is a cognitive process. Humans make errors because of motivational and emotional influences. Learn more about multiple selves here.

Hyperbolic discounting definition

Economic concept of discounting states that any choice that involves a trade off between current and future benefits should discount the future.

Self-interest bias definition

Perceptions and expectations are biased in self-serving manner. When presented with identical information, we perceive situation in different ways.

How emotions affect decision making?

Specific emotions influence our decision making. This is an effect of positive and negative moods. Good or bad mood results in more biased judgements.

Three main types of overconfidence

Overconfidence effects are some of the most potent, pervasive and pernicious of any biases. It is blamed for wars, stock market bubbles, strikes, lawsuits, bankruptcy, failure of merges and acquisitions, high rates of entrepreneurial entries and other. Overconfidence facilitates many of biases. We continue to believe that our judgements and believes are correct, despite copious…

Overestimation meaning

Tendency to think that we are better, smarter, faster, more capable, more attractive, more popular (and so on) than we actually are.

Overplacement bias

Tendency to think we rank higher than others on certain dimensions, particularly in competitive contexts.

Emotionally drained relationship

These relationships can be very destructive. They slowly drain off our energy, frustrate us, and generally make for an unhealthy negative environment.

Healthy relationships

They contribute to your overall well-being and sense of feeling valued. Here, people genuinely like and admire many of the qualities the other has.

How to build a better relationship?

Several skills are involved in building relationships that are satisfying and nurturing. You must be prepared to make some effort to keep them going.


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