Get All Access for $5/mo

It Turns Out, You Can Quantify Confidence New research looks at whether the human feeling of confidence can be broken down into objective mathematical calculation.

By Nina Zipkin

Shutterstock

When life calls on us to project confidence, whether you're going in for a major job interview, pitching investors or networking at a big conference, the old adage is just to fake it until you make it. But a new study from New York's Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory released this week looks at whether the human feeling of confidence can be broken down into objective mathematical calculation.

Choices that are big, such as launching a new venture, or small, such as deciding when to merge onto the highway, all require a careful weighing of the risks involved. Of course, some of these judgement calls have to occur faster than others.

Related: 12 Things Truly Confident People Do Differently

The study's lead author, associate professor of neuroscience Adam Kepecs, explained the driving question behind the research. "If we can quantify the evidence that informs a person's decision, then we can ask how well a statistical algorithm performs on the same evidence," he says.

To test out the hypothesis, Kepecs and his team developed video games to compare how humans and computers make decisions. The study's human volunteers listened to a series of clicking noises and had to decide which sounds were faster. Then they had to rank their confidence in their choice on a one to five scale, one being a totally random guess and five being high confidence. The next test for the humans was a series of questions about populations around the world.

Related: 6 Actions You Can Take Every Day to Build Your Self-Confidence

The research found that human and computer responses were fairly similar. The brain experiences feelings of confidence in the same manner that computers identify patterns in big groups of data. While Kepecs' work helps us better understand how our own minds work, the lessons from this study in others could also prove helpful in developing artificial intelligence.

"Humans are still better than computers at solving really difficult problems," Kepecs says.

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Reporter. Covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

Nina Zipkin is a staff reporter at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Starting a Business

How to Find the Right Programmers: A Brief Guideline for Startup Founders

For startup founders under a plethora of challenges like timing, investors and changing market demand, it is extremely hard to hire programmers who can deliver.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

How to Build a Successful Startup, According to an Investor Who Made Early Bets on Twitter, Lyft, and Twitch

He's found a few patterns after nearly two decades of investing in startups.

Franchise

Four Takeaways for the Franchise Industry From My Time at the Republican National Convention

Matt Haller, President and CEO of the IFA, says the stakes are high for franchisors and franchisees in the upcoming presidential election.

Growing a Business

The Top 5 AI Tools That Can Revolutionize Your Workflow and Boost Productivity

Discover the top 5 AI tools for marketing and content creation that every marketer needs to know.