Or vice versa?
One of our favorite pieces of research is the “frightening and hilarious new study of the human brain” that published in the Journal of Neuroscience recently. The researchers tested the mental skills of nine-year-old twins in order to find out whether they become more successful as they age. The tests involved two different types, one involving a word-numbers game and the other “stereotyped” word-naming tasks. In both, the two boys were given three test questions and then asked to indicate which one of them would be correct. The first “warranty” was the word “good,” followed by the words “bad” and “fair,” and then “okay” and “worse.” Here’s the abstract for the study’s paper:
The results are consistent on both conditions of the learning tests: (1) children show a strong tendency to be less accurate and correct the less they hear and remember the word that was chosen in the first test, while more accurate and correct the more they were exposed to the word that was used as a target in the second test; and (2) this tendency to under- or overestimate their own performance is not mediated by age, but is instead mediated by their social situation at their birth.
So a boy in a bad situation will be more likely to underestimate his own ability.
In addition, it’s important to note that what the study authors refer to here as “under- or underestimating one’s own performance” is not the same as over- or underestimating one’s performance.
What about the “more accurately and correct” claim, that these skills change over the course of a person’s life? What does that mean?
What we can say about how people respond to training exercises and training strategies is that in the most extreme cases, more accurate skills, like remembering the fact that it’s hot (not “frightening”) are the ones most strongly and immediately reinforced by it.
And what about all the other measures of self-confidence we use like self-efficacy, trust, and the such?
Well, on the question of training effectiveness, all of these vary with the individual and are best answered on your own. What these studies are suggesting is that when training is effective, it does so because our brains need it! Training, when it’s effective, is a means to an end. The end is, well, more accurate performance from our brains
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