Politics, law and economics students tend to be more overconfident than others, study finds

Humanities students were deemed to be the least confident out of all the groups surveyed

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The Independent Online

A recent psychological study has found that students of politics, law, business and economics are more overconfident than those studying other subjects.

The study, conducted by Yale University's Jonathan Schulz and the University of Lausanne's Christian Thöni, attempted to determine whether there was a correlation between overconfidence and career choice.

They carried out their study on a group of 711 first-year students from the universities of St. Gallen and Zurich in Switzerland. 

During the tests, the students were given a simple history quiz, in which they were given historical events like the Chernobyl disaster and Concorde's first flight and asked to write down the year each happened. Each student was given more marks depending on how close they were to the correct year.

Afterwards, the students were asked to say how well they thought they did, in comparison to the others. The difference between their self-assessed ranks and their actual ranks were the figures used as measures of overconfidence.

Overall, political sciences students were deemed to be the most overconfident, ranking themselves an average of 1.4 places higher than they actually were.

In second place were law students, who tended to put themselves one place higher than reality, with business administration and economics students coming in third and fourth place respectively.

Engineering students were deemed to be the most accurate at estimating how well they did, while medicine and natural sciences students tended to underestimate themselves.

Humanities students came out at the bottom, estimating their rank as 0.8 places below where they actually were.

On average, the test participants ranked themselves 0.44 places higher than their actual rank, although significantly, the study found that male students were significantly more confident in themselves than the females.

The study's authors said caution should be taken when trying to interpret these results - all the students were only in their first year, so it's difficult to say whether their overconfidence came from their academic experiences or from other sources.

In the study, published in the PLOS One journal, the authors said overconfidence in the professional world has been linked to market inefficiency and unemployment - so while their findings are important from a psychological angle, they could also be interesting to the people making hiring decisions in the workplace.