Do Your Early Performance Wins Breed Overconfidence?

Being too sure of oneself can be a problem, and research reveals a pattern in how it develops.

In an experiment that involved making medical diagnoses, subjects with no experience started out under-confident, but after just a few early successes they perceived themselves as more expert than they actually were – a phenomenon the researchers call “the beginner’s bubble.”

The graph below illustrates how quickly subjects’ perceptions of their own accuracy outstripped their actual skill.

“Hence, when it comes to overconfident judgment, a little learning does appear to be a dangerous thing. Although beginners start with humble self-perceptions, with just a little experience their confidence races ahead of their actual performance.”

Early research by Royal & Tasoff (2014) also concluded that a ‘little learning is a dangerous thing’.


Royal, A. & Tasoff, J. (2014) Is a Little Learning a Dangerous Thing? Overconfidence and Capital. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 13 June, 2019].

Sanchez, C. & Dunning, D. (2018) Overconfidence among beginners: Is a little learning a dangerous thing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 114(1), pp.10-28. doi: 10.1037/pspa0000102. Epub 2017 Nov 2.


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