The Relationship between
self-confidence and Decision-making
Sara Adelmann, Jeannie
Livingstone, Natasha Mohanty
The study investigates
the relationship between self-confidence and decision-making. Decision-making
is an integral part of everyday life and level of self-confidence is related
the time it takes to make a decision. The study examines the difference
in the time taken to make decisions between people who have been assigned
low confidence and those who have been assigned high confidence. It also
looks at the difference in the time taken to answer objective versus subjective
questions. Results indicate that those with assigned high confidence take
longer to make a decision and it takes longer to make subjective decisions.
The implications of these results are discussed.
Both high self-confidence
and the ability to make sure decisions quickly are considered positive
in the American culture.
Decisions can be objective
or subjective. Not a lot of research has been done in this area.
Decision-making involves not
only external factors but also individual characteristics (Elsbach and
Barr, 1990). As self-confidence is an integral part of personality it will
influence decision-making ability.
Wolf and Grosch (1990) reported
that there is no significant relationship between confidence in one’s answers
and accuracy of the answer. Knowles and Condon (1999) found a relationship
between acquiescence and time taken to answer questions. Therefore time
was chosen as an ideal measure.
Confidence was manipulated
since a pretest indicated that most participants had high levels of self-reported
refers to us having a positive and realistic perception of ourselves and
our abilities. A lack of self-confidence, on the other hand, is characterized
by: self- doubt, passivity, submissiveness, over-conformity, isolation,
sensitivity to criticism, distrust, depression, and feelings of inferiority
and being unloved (http://ub-counseling.buffalo.edu/self-con.shtml)."
Objective – have one right
Subjective – answer depends
on the individual’s opinion
The participants that are given the mock score in the lower percentile
will take longest answering the subjective questions as well as reporting
less confidence in answering the questions than those subjects who were
given the mock top percentile confidence score, who will take the shortest
time answering the objective questions and display the most confidence
answering the questions.
Participants: 43 Mount Holyoke College students
Materials: mock self-confidence questionnaire, assigned level
of self-confidence computer program, debriefing statement
Each participant was given the mock self-confidence questionnaire.
The participant was randomly assigned to receive either high or low
Each participant was presented with two paragraphs on the computer,
each followed by a set of objective and subjective questions.
After each question the participant was asked to rate how confident
she was in answering the question(1-9)
The time taken to answer each question was recorded by the computer
without participant’s knowledge.
The participant was then debriefed.
A repeated measures ANOVA was used to determine if there was a significant
difference between the time taken to answer objective versus subjective
questions based on the assigned level of self-confidence. The participants
took a significantly longer time to answer subjective questions than to
answer objective questions. The assigned high confidence score group took
a significantly longer time to answer the questions than the assigned low
confidence group. The interaction was not significant.
A repeated measures ANOVA was also used to determine if there was
a significant difference between the confidence groups and the type of
question for the reported levels of self-confidence. No significant effects
Also, since the confidence level was assigned, whether it was contrary
to or supported their actual levels of self-confidence may have an effect
on their decision-making ability. A greater sample size may have given
us more appropriate results.
The hypothesis was not supported.
There was a difference in the time taken between objective and subjective
questions. As predicted participants took a longer time to answer subjective
WHY? Since objective questions have one right answer the participants
will either know it or not know it. They will not tend to ponder over the
answer as they would to the answer of the subjective questions.
Contrary to our hypothesis, the assigned low self-confidence group took
a shorter time to answer questions.
WHY? It is likely that the once the participants were informed that
they have a high level of self-confidence, they would try to be sure of
their decisions. They would take a longer time to evaluate their options
to come up with answers.
Further studies can be done to look at the natural groups in an environment
where there is a considerable difference between the low and high self-confidence
groups that examine the decision-making process.
The results indicate that personality does have an influence on decision-making
Confident people take longer time to make a decision. This means that
time pressure is probably not a good idea to rush them into making a decision.
This research can have implications in both the academic and work environment
where there are many deadlines and decisions that need to be made each