The primary focus of my PhD is the potential social benefits of overconfidence. I am working to test the possibility that individuals with overly positive self-views may gain social benefits, both romantic and coalitional, by virtue of convincing others that their inflated self-assessments are accurate (von Hippel & Trivers, 2011). In order to do this, I have used a combination of online dating profile studies, agent-based simulations, and longitudinal social network analysis in a field setting.
Romantic benefits of overconfidence
Much of my work to date has tested the effects of overconfidence on romantic perceptions of individuals. Across a series of studies, I developed a methodology involving written dating profiles as a way to test both the ability to attract a partner, and the ability to deter competitors. This research has shown evidence that overconfident individuals may gain benefits in romantic competition, though the effects on mate attraction are more nuanced. These findings are published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and have been covered by Psychology Today and the Huffington Post.
Coalitional benefits of overconfidence
A second project I have been working on aims to test the longitudinal effects of overconfidence on coalition-building success. I am interested in whether overconfident individuals might become increasingly successful over time as they take more risks and convince others of their positive self-views – potentially by making those views reality. Because most research on overconfidence to date has been cross-sectional, effects of overconfidence through this mechanism have largely been untested. I have recently collected the second wave of data measuring overconfidence and friendship networks in a private school setting, and initial results indicate that overconfidence may indeed lead individuals to both realise their overly positive self-views, and become increasingly central to their social networks over time.