NeuroNation \ Intelligence and IQ

Can Confidence be Mistaken for Intelligence?

What is the link between intelligence and confidence? If you’ve ever learnt a new language, you know that one of the major barriers to becoming fluent is confidence, and this goes for many other things you want to master in life. Here we explore what is confidence, and what the ‘right’ amount is in order to be liked and seen as credible.

Confidence is knowing what you’re good at, the value you provide, and acting in a way that conveys that to others. In contrast, arrogance typically means you believe that you’re better at something than you really are, whereas low-self esteem involves believing that you’re worth less than you are.

You Need Just the Right Amount of Confidence

According to the scientists, ignorance can cause people to overestimate their intelligence. In a study conducted by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, the more poorly people performed, the more they actually overestimate their own performance [1]. Those in the bottom 12% (88 people performed better than they did) judged their own performance to be in the top third of scores. On the contrary those who outperformed 86% of their peers estimated themselves to be in the top quarter, underestimating their performance.

But the conundrum is: the most confident people are also perceived by others as the most intelligent. It seems that the less you know, the smarter you’ll think you are, and everyone else will agree with you.

This finding has been replicated a number of times since then, and even has it’s own name – the ‘Kruger-Dunning Paradox’, with there being little doubt that ignorance is associated with exaggerated confidence in one’s abilities.

Credibility means Confidence?

How does this affect real life? Here is just one example: research into the credibility of expert witnesses has identified the expert’s projected confidence as the most important determinant in judged credibility [2]. Nearly half of people’s perceived credibility can be explained by their self-confidence, says researcher Professor Cramer, one of the collaborators on the study.

And Not Only Credibility

A recent study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found giving men cologne improved their confidence enough to be rated more physically attractive in photographs [3]. And the same goes for women – a study conducted by Webster University had researchers sit in a bar, and observe the flirtatious moves which lead to females succeeding in finding a mate for the night [4]. One action was the most obvious: women who gave men a direct smile while locking eyes were the most successful. Our brains are attracted to people who are confident: they are often more secure, more likely to have status and be good potential parents.

How to Improve Your Confidence Levels

1.     Learn Power Poses

Have you ever watched Amy Cuddy’s ted talk on power poses? If you haven’t – you must. Much of how our mind works can be affected by what our body is doing. Ohio State University has done research where participants stood in different positions – with outstretched arms or fists raised high in the air – and found ‘powerful poses’ to increase levels of testosterone and help us feel more confident.

2.     Become an Expert at Something

Maybe you love 90’s techno music or the history of social welfare – whatever floats your boat, try and read up, so you can impress everyone with your knowledge. Giving someone a primer on a topic that you’re an expert on is a quick and easy way to get the confidence juices flowing. You know you’re territory, you know something they don’t (power!), and have the ability to articulate something that is (hopefully) valuable.

3.     Dress Better

If you’ve never assessed your wardrobe before: we recommend that you do. Although you might not realise it, the way you dress gives a strong impression to everyone you’re in contact with. Whether your clothes are crumpled, or your pants have a hole in the knee – your appearance does mean a lot. When how you appear is in sync with how you want people to view you, confidence will naturally follow.

4.     Use Your Talents

We all like the feeling that we’re really good at something. A pilot study from the University of Melbourne found a correlation between confidence levels as early as primary school and success in the workplace as adults [5].

Improve your confidence today with these tips and see if it influences how trustworthy and attractive people find you.

Start training


[1] Kruger J & Dunning D (1999) Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personal Social Psychology, 77(6): 1121-34.

[2] Brodsky S, Griffin M & Cramer R (2010) The witness credibility scale: an outcome measure for expert witness research. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 28(6): 892-907.

[3] Roberts C, Little AC, Lyndon A, Roberts J, Havlicek, J & Wright RL (2009) Manipulation of body odour alters men’s self-confidence and jusgements of their visual attractiveness by women. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 31(1): 47-54.

Read more about: