Confidence does not predict success

Been reading a lot by Jean Twenge recently. How to cope with ‘Millennials’ etc. Not 100 percent sure what to think of her research; not an expert here (or anywhere else). But she doesn’t only write popular books like “Generation Me” and “Narcissism Epidemic”. Her research does appear in serious, peer-reviewed journals. And she’s at San Diego State.

What struck me as most surprising is that ‘Generation Me’ has apparently attained such high levels of self-esteem, according to Professor Twenge, that over-confidence begins to be in the way. Here are some quotes from an article, “Teaching Generation Me”:

“… by 2006, two- thirds of students were predicting that they would perform in the top 20% of the population in their adult jobs.” (…)

Ooops?!? It’s first and foremost valid for the U.S., sure, but it’s food for thought nevertheless. Can you recognize yourself in THIS? (my bold print)

“The number of students who expected to work in a ‘professional’ job (including those of teacher, lawyer, doctor or nurse practitioner) also increased, with 75% of high school seniors expecting to work in such a job by the age of 30 years, although only about 20% are likely to do so. The researchers concluded that recent generations had become ‘too ambitious’ and that many of them were setting goals that might not be right for them.”

Okay, let’s not forget what we learned about American college and university professors (Cross 1977): that 94% of them believe themselves to be above average (some must be wrong, to say the least). In the same paper, Twenge goes on (my bold print):

“It is tempting to believe that this is a positive development. American culture teaches that one must be self-confident to be successful. However, self-esteem does not predict success. In fact, being overconfident – a fair description of a group in which two in three people expect to perform in the top 20% – actually leads to greater failure, perhaps because overconfident people do not recognise when they are doing badly and need to improve. One study showed that overconfidence – measured using a narcissism scale – was highest among those who failed a course and lowest among those who earned A-grades.

In another, newer paper (available here), Jean Twenge writes (my bold print):

“However, most studies on self-esteem show no direct link to success (for a review, see Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003). For example, most of the correlation between self-esteem and academic achievement disappears when outside variables such as family background are controlled. Any relation that is left is explained by achievement causing self-esteem, not by self-esteem causing achievement. Asian American children, for example, have the lowest self-esteem of any ethnic group in the United States (Twenge & Crocker, 2002), yet have the best academic achievement.”

Now that drags my confidence down. Thank you, Jean.

Cross, P. (1977) Not can but will college teaching be improved. New Directions for
Higher Education 17:1–15.

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