How you know you’re nailing it

2 minute read

How do you know you know what you're doing?

Do you know what you’re doing?

If you said “Of course I do! I’ve done this a million times. Why, you think you could do it better?”, then here’s another question:

How do you know you know what you’re doing?

A recent study from the University of Queensland has sought to find an answer by testing the connection between confidence and performance. To do this, researchers had participants respond to a sequence of visual stimuli and “examined how their visual adaptation to oriented inputs changed their tilt perception, perceptual sensitivity and confidence”.

Got it?

This is me confidently parsing the study method

In other words, they used sinister neurological mind tricks to neg participants into doubting their own powers of perception without necessarily affecting their ability to describe what they perceived accurately.

The researchers found that the processes of visual adaptation participants were subject to had a far greater (mostly negative) impact on their confidence than on their actual perceptual precision. In past studies, the disconnect between how we perform and our confidence in that performance has been taken to suggest that each rely on different types of information. But this study concludes that people just need more of the same type of information in order to feel confident.

So, in essence, our brains know when we’re right because they know how much information has been encoded, and this is what generates a feeling of confidence.

TFW your brain has encoded the requisite amount of similar information to generate the sensation of overwhelming confidence

The authors suggest that one practical application for this study is in the development of artificially intelligent technologies like driverless cars, which could use a bit of human doubt when judging the distance between bumper and pedestrian.

Lord grant me the confidence of a mediocre smart sedan.

If you see something doubtful, confidently email

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