People in higher social classes are “overconfident” about their abilities which means they come across as more competent – even when they don’t know what they’re talking about, psychologists found. This overconfidence means people who are born into the upper echelons of society are likely to remain there, according to the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Being able to confidently express what they think means a tendency to perform better during job interviews, opposed to working-class people, who are socialised to embrace humility and authenticity. Psychologists found people with more education, income and perceived social class had an exaggerated belief that they would perform better.
“Advantages beget advantages,” said Dr Peter Belmi from the University of Virginia and lead author of the study. “Our research suggests that social class shapes the attitudes that people hold about their abilities and that, in turn, has important implications for how class hierarchies perpetuate from one generation to the next."
“In the middle class, people are socialised to differentiate themselves from others, to express what they think and feel and to confidently express their ideas and opinions, even when they lack accurate knowledge,” said Dr Belmi. “By contrast, working-class people are socialised to embrace the values of humility, authenticity and knowing your place in the hierarchy. “These findings challenge the widely held belief that everybody thinks they are better than the average.”
“Our results suggest that finding solutions to mitigate class inequalities may require a focus on subtle and seemingly harmless human tendencies,” he said. “Although people may be well meaning, these inequalities will continue to perpetuate if people do not correct for their natural human tendency to conflate impressions of confidence with evidence of ability.”