Why Voting for the Most Confident Candidate Is a Problem

The confidence we crave in our leaders compromises their ability to help us avoid risk.

It may never be fully understood why we’re so drawn to confident people. But it’s clear we are. In relationships, there’s hardly a bigger turn-off than insecurity. In politics, large groups of voters will always go for the candidate with the bigger ego, not that anyone running for office is likely to be a shrinking violet. And not to name names.

And this is a problem. Combined with a less-than sparkling intellect, confidence is downright dangerous, resulting in a person who never doubts his/her own bad decision-making. People die when the presidency is in the hands of this kind of person. Again, not naming names.

Our attraction to the confident also stands in direct opposition to another thing we crave, as Daniel Kahneman points out.

One would hope that our battling cognitive biases toward confidence and risk-aversion keep us mostly in-balance, and often this is just the kind of paradox we expect our leaders to manifest. Dancing this internal dance probably lies at the very heart of what it takes to be a politician.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
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Saying no is hard. These communication tips make it easy.

You can say 'no' to things, and you should. Do it like this.

  • Give yourself permission to say "no" to things. Saying yes to everything is a fast way to burn out.
  • Learn to say no in a way that keeps the door of opportunity open: No should never be a one-word answer. Say "No, but I could do this instead," or, "No, but let me connect you to someone who can help."
  • If you really want to say yes but can't manage another commitment, try qualifiers like "yes, if," or "yes, after."
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Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
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Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
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