The overconfidence problem

The cult of me continues...data from a survey of US freshmen shows increasing perceptions of being 'above average': Are they deluded or the greatest generation?
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor

there's an intriguing article about narcissism and self confidence 'Does confidence really breed success?' by William Kremer on the BBC news website this morning, quoting US psychologist Jean Twenge and others.

The article is focused on the 'American Freshman Survey' and notes the changing values over time since 1966, the first year of participation.

Each year hundreds of two and four year colleges along with universities administer the CIRP Freshman Survey (TFS) to hundreds of thousands of entering students during orientation or registration.

The survey covers a wide range of student characteristics: parental income and education, ethnicity, and other demographic items; financial aid; secondary school achievement and activities; educational and career plans; and values, attitudes, beliefs, and self-concept.

Published annually in "The American Freshman," the results from these surveys continue to provide a comprehensive portrait of the changing character of entering students and American society at large.

Twenge wrote the books 'The Narcissim Epidemic: Living in the age of entitlement' in 2010 and 'Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before' in 2007 which gives a pretty clear overview of her perspective on this topic. I think Twenge is an important voice in our current febrile digital social life climate.

Twenge and colleagues have analyzed the American Freshman Survey data and found over the past four decades there has been a dramatic rise in the number of students who describe themselves as being "above average" for academic ability, drive to achieve, mathematical ability and self-confidence.

You could argue that society has ratcheted up the pressure to be seen to be visibly successful over the same period, and we live in an era that encourages emotional expression, particularly in formerly stiff upper lip England.

An English CIO complained to me recently that most incoming fresh-out-of-college employees had the 'attention span of gnats', wanted to immediately take charge of projects without supervision and were generally very overconfident without the skills to back that up.

Getting people to coexist and work together over time isn't easy - ask any middle manager in the trenches with a long list of time sensitive tasks to supervise getting done - and overconfident, noisy people who let you down has to be near the top of the list of frustrations.

The places we meet up socially in the digital realm are designed to flatter us and are all about you in your own time and terms, as I've written here many times previously. Collaborative work sites are a very different animal and require collective social sensitivities and respect that are mostly absent in the casual world of Facebook and the flighty social whirl of Twitter.

Perhaps the pendulum will swing back towards far more formal ways of interacting over time as the current era of self indulgence described by Jean Twenge and others peaks. For now the magazine-like Facebook user interface concepts by Fred Nerby on Behance above and here show where the cult of me is heading.






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