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US Professionals May be Over-Confident

June 20, 2013 by NCSF 0 comments

Perhaps it is a cultural phenomenon or just a common character flaw, but Americans seem to demonstrate an ongoing overconfidence in their knowledge and abilities. This has clearly been established by the ongoing skill gap surveys, but also in the average American’s perception of their education and capabilities relative to other countries. On average, 16 other industrialized countries scored above the United States in science, and 23 scored above the U.S. in math. Interestingly though, America’s self assessment places the country in the top 3, suggesting that while Americans are performing in a subpar manner compared the rest of the World, surveys indicate the U.S. population rates themselves as outstanding. This is not only a problem in manufacturing, technologies and work skill readiness across disciplines, but has also bled into the average citizen’s everyday interactions.

According to researchers, having excessive confidence in the accuracy of our beliefs can have profound consequences; it may lead a physician to gravitate too quickly to a diagnosis, make people intolerant of dissenting views and even cause exercise enthusiasts to engage in unhealthy or risky behaviors in the pursuit of fitness. New research conducted by Albert Mannes of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Don Moore of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley identifies the commonality of our excessive certainty in the accuracy of our judgments. It essentially emphasizes the phrase, “A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.”

Mannes states, "The findings suggest that people are too confident in what they know and underestimate what they don't know". The research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, demonstrated that the more confident participants were about their estimates of an uncertain quantity, the less they adjusted their estimates in response to feedback about their accuracy and to the tangible costs of being wrong.

While the research in these studies was not directed at any particular industry, the acknowledgement of “over-precision” along with similar evidence associated with America’s competency gaps have significant implication in the health and fitness industries. The authors warn that, "These studies tell us that you shouldn't be too certain about what's going to happen, especially when being wrong could be dangerous. You should plan to protect yourself in case you aren't as right as you think you are."

The outcome of overzealousness in training, the recommendation and use of ergogenic aids as well as unqualified health advice can have serious consequences and may come with a high risk of liability. There is a fiduciary responsibility associated with a leadership role to protect the individuals you lead. Instructors should clearly evaluate their skills and knowledge using valid external resources rather than their own opinion. Likewise professionals should recognize the importance of the time-earned process and the short-comings of rapid gratification. In the fitness industry too many professionals are taking the road of least resistance, paved with weekend certifications, unaccredited coursework, and diploma mills and then presenting themselves with the same level of competency as their validly-assessed peers. Likewise exercise enthusiasts are providing health advice to others without more than some workout experience and handful of bodybuilding magazines.

Developmentally, it is presumed that more experience leads to greater knowledge and improvements in practice and skills. This only works when the experience is rooted in correct practice and the knowledge is valid. Doing something wrong for twenty years only guarantees your good at being wrong. In the American work force the other issue is many professions in this nation are not keeping up with new developments. We are losing our qualified status at a rate faster than professionals are becoming qualified in today’s market. The inadequacies in the rate of professional development and the lowering bar of professional capabilities is creating a concerning imbalance as to the actual number of those qualified at the requisite level compared to the need. It is a multi-level problem that affects society as a whole. Awareness of the problem may be the first step to resolving the situation.

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