CHAPTER 11See it

Johann Sebastian Bach was a prolific composer in his time. While his work may not be on your daily Spotify list, chances are you've heard it at some point. Over his extensive career, how many concertos do you think Bach wrote? Rather than come up with a specific number, choose a range where you feel 98 per cent confident that you're on the money — for example, you might say between 100 and 500 concertos.

Psychologists Howard Raifa and Marc Alpert have asked hundreds of people this question (among other questions), asking them to rate their knowledge within a strong band of confidence. Their research focused on exploring the gap between what people confidently affirmed that they knew and what they actually knew. Their results were fascinating: instead of 2 per cent of respondents being wrong (which would fit in with them feeling 98 per cent confident), they found that 40 per cent of their respondents proved incorrect with the range they provided. In other words, they overestimated their confidence in their knowledge. (In regards to Bach, for example, over his total output of more than 1100 compositions, only 28 are classed as concertos. That fact will totally come in handy at your next trivia night event.) Raifa and Alpert named this phenomenon the ‘overconfidence effect'.

We apply this effect in many aspects of our lives — from overconfidence in the stock market and the property market, to overconfidence in our ability to be safe drivers (it's always the other ...

Get Boss of Busy, 2nd Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.