Believe and Achieve: Confidence Linked to Academic Success

Believe and Achieve: Confidence Linked to Academic Success


EVA FREDERICK Whether it comes to talking to the opposite sex, interviewing for a job, or trying to look cool at a party, anyone will be quick to throw out the well-worn cliché, “confidence is key.” But this concept also has another well-researched application—academics.  

Past research shows that the higher students esteem their intellectual abilities, the better they perform on academic assignments like tests. Besides cognitive factors such as IQ, confidence is the next best predictor of academic performance, according to a 2012 study published in Learning and Individual Differences.

In the study, eight variables, such as confidence, anxiety and self-efficacy, were tested in relationship to test scores.

Students can boost confidence in several ways. Research suggests that students relying on their support system and building a strong network of friends boosts confidence, both general and intellectual. Simply studying more can also cause an increase in intellectual confidence.

Once confidence is established, it can act as a positive feedback system, according to a 2011 article in the Journal of School Psychology. The study analysed several possibilities for the relationship between confidence and academic success, and asked questions such as, “does confidence cause greater success? Do good grades build confidence?”

“The findings suggest a reciprocal relation between academic self-concept and achievement,” said lead author Chiungjung Huang in the study.

While confidence is an important quality, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. One study by researchers at Baylor University shows a few downsides to excessive intellectual confidence—or as they called it, “Intellectual Arrogance.” The study measured “intellectual arrogance” compared to “intellectual humility.”

The negative trait of intellectual arrogance was measured by self-assessment and peer evaluation of criteria such as close-mindedness, belief in the superiority of personal ideas, and just plain arrogance. Humility was measured by openness to criticism and ability to learn from others.

While students with high levels of intellectual arrogance still performed better than their less confident peers on academic assignments, their relationships with their peers suffered. Other students were more likely to rate

The Baylor researchers suggested that intellectually arrogant people knew they had the knowledge to back it up.

"One possibility is that people who view themselves as intellectually arrogant know what they know and that translates to increases in academic performance," said researcher Wade Rowatt in a press release.

However, the researchers also stress the importance of humility in the learning experience.

“Learning something new requires first acknowledging your own ignorance and being willing to make your ignorance known to others,” said lead author Benjamin Meager in the press release.

In order to succeed, this research suggests that students need to find a balance between intellectual confidence and arrogance. Too much can be detrimental, but the right amount can have a positive effect on grades and general academic performance.

This research doesn’t mean students can bluff their way to better grades through misplaced confidence. Being aware of things besides pure cognitive factors that affect academic performance can give students the edge they need to succeed in college.


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