Confidence to spare: individual differences in cognitive and metacognitive arrogance and competence

  • Sabina KleitmanEmail author
  • Jessica Sik-Wai Hui
  • Yixin Jiang


While some individuals are able to confidently make competent choices, others make poor decisions but are unjustifiably confident. What are their individual characteristics? This study examined individual differences in cognitive and metacognitive competence and arrogance. In doing so, we determined the role of metacognitive confidence and self-monitoring in competence and arrogance. We also investigated the predictive validity of the resulting model to decision-making competence. Psychology undergraduates (N = 180) completed measures of intelligence, on-task confidence, arrogant-and dogmatic-like traits and thinking dispositions. Confirmatory Factor Analysis revealed that the most parsimonious solution was a hierarchical two-factor model defined by broad Cognitive and Metacognitive Competence and Arrogance factors. The broad Competence was defined by positive loadings from Intelligence and Confidence factors and a negative loading from the Dogmatism factor. The broad Arrogance factor was defined by positive loadings from Confidence, Arrogance, and Dogmatism factors, but no loading from the Intelligence. Therefore, the study determined that the Confidence trait loaded on both factors while a first-order Intelligence factor loaded on Competence only. Thus, while arrogant individuals were as confident as competent individuals, this confidence was not justified by their performance and ability. Moreover, Arrogance positively predicted higher bias, confidence, prediction and evaluation estimates, but not actual performance on a decision task. In contrast, the Competence factor positively predicted the accuracy of performance. Supporting and extending the Koriat’s (1997) cue utilization theory, the current results indicated that test- and (systematic) individual-specific sources of diagnostic cues underlie judgment accuracy, however, they seem to play different roles for individuals based on their relative standing within the Cognitive and Metacognitive Competence and Arrogance taxonomy. Extending Dunning (2003), some “people tend to be blissfully unaware of their incompetence” and are “triply cursed” as they are also dogmatic.


Confidence Competence Arrogance Self-monitoring Bias Metacognition Decisionmaking Individual differences 



This project was not funded.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethics approval was obtained from the University of Sydney’s Human Research Ethics Committee (ID#2015/208).

Conflict of interest

The first author of this manuscript is acting as the Associate Editor of the Metacognition and Learning journal and the Guest Editor of the SI titled Applied Metacognition. The manuscript, however, will be handled by the second Guest Editor of this SI, Prof Susanne Narciss. Thus, the authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11409_2019_9210_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 16 kb)


  1. Ackerman, R. (2014). The diminishing criterion model for metacognitive regulation of time investment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(3), 1349–1368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ackerman, R., & Zalmanov, H. (2012). The persistence of the fluency–confidence association in problem solving. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 19(6), 1187–1192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allwood, C. M., & Granhag, P. A. (1999). Feelings of confidence and the realism of confidence judgments in everyday life. In P. Juslin & H. Montgomery (Eds.), Judgment and decision making: Neo-Brunswikian and process-tracing approaches (pp. 123–146). Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  4. Ames, D. R., Rose, P., & Anderson, C. P. (2006). The NPI-16 as a short measure of narcissism. Journal of Research in Personality, 40(4), 440–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Azevedo, R. (2009). Theoretical, conceptual, methodological, and instructional issues in research on metacognition and self-regulated learning: A discussion. Metacognition and Learning, 4(1), 87–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barelds, D. P., & Dijkstra, P. (2010). Narcissistic personality inventory: Structure of the adapted dutch version. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 51(2), 132–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baron, J. (2000). Thinking and deciding (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bruin, A.B., Kok, E.M., Lobbestael, J., & Grip, A. (2016). The impact of an online tool for monitoring and regulating learning at university: Overconfidence, learning strategy, and personality. Metacognition and Learning, 1–23.Google Scholar
  9. Bruine de Bruin, W., Missier, F. D., & Levin, P. I. (2012). Individual differences in decision-making competence. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 25, 329–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bruine de Bruin, W., Parker, A. M., & Fischhoff, B. (2007). Individual differences in adult decision-making competence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(5), 938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burns, K. M., Burns, N. R., & Ward, L. (2016). Confidence–more a personality or ability trait? It depends on how it is measured: A comparison of young and older adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Campbell, W. K., Rudich, E. A., & Sedikides, C. (2002). Narcissism, self-esteem, and the positivity of self-views: Two portraits of self-love. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(3), 358–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Campbell, W. K., Bush, C. P., Brunell, A. B., & Shelton, J. (2005). Understanding the social costs of narcissism: The case of the tragedy of the commons. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1358–1368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carroll, J. B. (1993). Human cognitive abilities: A survey of factor-analytic studies. New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Cattell, R. B. (1963). Theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence: A critical experiment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 54(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cleary, M., Walter, G., Sayers, L., Lopez, V., & Hungerford, C. (2015). Arrogance in the workplace: Implications for mental health nurses. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 36(4), 266–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Costa Jr., P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). The five-factor model of personality and its relevance to personality disorders. Journal of Personality Disorders, 6(4), 343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Costa, P. T., McCrae, R. R., & Dye, D. A. (1991). Facet scales for agreeableness and conscientiousness: A revision of the NEO personality inventory. Personality and Individual Differences, 12(9), 887–898.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dunning, D., Heath, C., & Suls, J. M. (2018). Reflections on self-reflection: Contemplating flawed self-judgments in the clinic, classroom, and office cubicle. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 185–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dunning, D., Johnson, K., Ehrlinger, J., & Kruger, J. (2003). Why people fail to recognize their own incompetence. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(3), 83–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Del Missier, F., Mäntylä, T., & Bruin, W. B. (2012). Decision-making competence, executive functioning, and general cognitive abilities. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 25(4), 331–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Efklides, A. (2008). Metacognition: Defining its facets and levels of functioning in relation to self-regulation and co-regulation. European Psychologist, 13(4), 277–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ehrlinger, J., Johnson, K., Banner, M., Dunning, D., & Kruger, J. (2008). Why the unskilled are unaware: Further explorations of (absent) self-insight among the incompetent. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 105(1), 98–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. El-Anzi, F. O. (2005). Academic achievement and its relationship with anxiety, self-esteem, optimism, and pessimism in Kuwaiti students. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 33(1), 95–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Elliot, A. J., & Dweck, C. S. (2005). Handbook of competence and motivation. New York, NY: The Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  26. Evans, J. S. (2008). Dual-processing accounts of reasoning, judgment, and social cognition. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 255–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Farwell, L., & Wohlwend-Lloyd, R. (1998). Narcissistic processes: Optimistic expectations, favorable self-evaluations, and self-enhancing attributions. Journal of Personality, 66(1), 65–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Frederick, S. (2005). Cognitive reflection and decision making. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(4), 25–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gilovich, T., Griffin, D., & Kahneman, D. (2002). Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Goldberg, L. R., Johnson, J. A., Eber, H. W., Hogan, R., Ashton, M. C., Cloninger, R., & Gough, H. G. (2006). The international personality item pool and the future of public-domain personality measures. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 84–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gorsuch, R. L. (2003). Factor analysis. Handbook of psychology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc..Google Scholar
  32. Gregg, A. P., Mahadevan, N., & Sedikides, C. (2017). Intellectual arrogance and intellectual humility: Correlational evidence for an evolutionaryembodied-epistemological account. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(1), 59–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hickman, S. E., Watson, P. J., & Morris, R. J. (1996). Optimism, pessimism, and the complexity of narcissism. Personality and Individual Differences, 20(4), 521–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hogarth, R. M. (2010). Intuition: A challenge for psychological research on decision-making. Psychological Inquiry, 21(4), 228–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Horn, J. L., & Noll, J. (1997). Human cognitive capabilities: Gf-Gc theory. In D. P. Flanagan, J. L. Genshaft, & P. L. Harrison (Eds.), Contemporary intellectual assessment: Theories, tests, and issues (pp. 53–91). New York, NY, US: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  36. Horvath, S., & Morf, C. C. (2010). To be grandiose or not to be worthless: Different routes to self-enhancement for narcissism and self-esteem. Journal of Research in Personality, 44(5), 585–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jackson, S. A., Kleitman, S., Howie, P., & Stankov, L. (2016a). ognitive abilities, monitoring, and control explain individual differences in heuristics and biases. Frontiers-Psychology.
  38. Jackson, S. A., Kleitman, S., Stankov, L., & Howie, P. (2017). Individual differences in decision making depend on cognitive abilities, monitoring and control. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making., 30(2), 209–223. Scholar
  39. Jackson, S. A., Kleitman, S., Stankov, L., & Howie, P. (2016b). Decision pattern analysis as a general framework for studying individual differences in decision making. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 29(4), 392–408. Scholar
  40. Jackson, S. A., & Kleitman, S. (2014). Individual differences in decision-making and confidence: Capturing decision tendencies in a fictitious medical test. Metacognition and Learning, 9(1), 25–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Jonsson, A. C., & Allwood, C. M. (2003). Stability and variability in the realism of confidence judgments over time, content domain, and gender. Personality and Individual Differences, 34(4), 559–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Johnson, R. E., Silverman, S. B., Shyamsunder, A., Swee, H. Y., Rodopman, O. B., Cho, E., & Bauer, J. (2010). Acting superior but actually inferior?: Correlates and consequences of workplace arrogance. Human Performance, 23, 403–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kahneman, D. (2003). A perspective on judgment and choice: Mapping bounded rationality. The American Psychologist, 58(9), 697–720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  45. Kleitman, S. (2008). Metacognition in the rationality debate: Self-confidence and its calibration. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller.Google Scholar
  46. Kleitman, S., & Stankov, L. (2001). Ecological and person-oriented aspects of metacognitive processes in test-taking. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 15(3), 321–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kleitman, S., & Stankov, L. (2007). Self-confidence and metacognitive processes. Learning and Individual Differences, 17(2), 161–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Koriat, A. (1997). Monitoring one's own knowledge during study: A cue-utilization approach to judgments of learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 126(4), 349–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Koriat, A., Nussinson, R., Bless, H., & Shaked, N. (2008). Information-based and experiencebased metacognitive judgments: Evidence from subjective confidence. In I. J. Dunlosky & R. A. Bjork (Eds.), Handbook of memory and metamemory (pp. 117–135). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  50. Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lichtenstein, S., & Fischhoff, B. (1977). Do those who know more also know more about how much they know? Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 20(2), 159–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Marsh, H. W. (1987). The hierarchical structure of self-concept and the application of hierarchical confirmatory factor analysis. Journal of Educational Measurement, 24(1), 17–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. McElroy, S. E., Rice, K. G., Davis, D. E., Hook, J., N., Hill, P. C., …, Van Tongeren, D. R. (2014). Intellectual humility: Scale development and theoretical elaborations in the context of religious leadership. Journal of Psychology & Theology, 42(1), 19–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Meagher, B. R., Leman, J. C., Bias, J. P., Latendresse, S. J., & Rowatt, W. C. (2015). Contrasting self-report and consensus ratings of intellectual humility and arrogance. Journal of Research in Personality, 58, 35–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Moore, D. A., & Healy, P. J. (2008). The trouble with overconfidence. Psychological Review, 115(2), 502–517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Murphy, S. C., von Hippel, W., Dubbs, S. L., Angilletta, M. J., Wilson, R. S., Trivers, R., & Barlow, F. K. (2015). The role of overconfidence in romantic desirability and competition. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(8), 1036–1052.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Nunnally, J. C., & Bernstein, I. H. (1994). Psychometric theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  58. Pallier, G., Wilkinson, R., Danthiir, V., Kleitman, S., Knezevic, G., Stankov, L., & Roberts, R. D. (2002). The role of individual differences in the accuracy of confidence judgments. The Journal of General Psychology, 129(3), 257–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Parker, A. M., & Fischhoff, B. (2005). Decision-making competence: External validation through an individual-differences approach. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 18(1), 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Parker, A. M., & Stone, E. R. (2014). Indentifying the Effects of Unjustified Confidence versus Overconfidence: Lessons Learned from Two Analytic Methods. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 27, 134–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Parker, A. M., Bruine de Bruin, W., Yoong, J., & Willis, R. (2012). Inappropriate Confidence and Retirement Planning: Four Studies with a National Sample. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 25(4), 382–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Roets, A., & Van Hiel, A. (2011). Item selection and validation of a brief, 15-item version of the Need for Closure Scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(1), 90–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rowatt, W. C., Powers, C., Targhetta, V., Comer, J., Kennedy, S., & Labouff, J. (2006). Development and initial validation of an implicit measure of humility relative to arrogance. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(4), 198–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Rudolph, J., Niepel, C., Greiff, S., Goldhammer, F., & Kröner, S. (2017). Metacognitive confidence judgments and their link to complex problem solving. Intelligence, 63, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Samuel, D. B., & Widiger, T. A. (2008). Convergence of narcissism measures from the perspective of general personality functioning. Assessment, 15, 364–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Samuelson, P. L., Jarvinen, M. J., Paulus, T. B., Church, I. M., Hardy, S. A., & Barrett, J. L. (2015). Implicit theories of intellectual virtues and vices: A focus on intellectual humility. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(5), 389–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Schunk, D. H., & Pajares, F. (2005). Competence perceptions and academic functioning. In A. J. Elliot & C. S. Dweck (Eds.), Handbook of competence and motivation (pp. 85–104). New York, NY: The Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  69. Sedikides, C., Rudich, E. A., Gregg, A. P., Kumashiro, M., & Rusbult, C. (2004). Are normal narcissists psychologically healthy?: Self-esteem matters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(3), 400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Stankov, L. (1997). The Gf/Gc Quickie Test Battery: Unpublished test battery available from the School of Psychology, University of Sydney.Google Scholar
  71. Stankov, L. (1999). Mining on the “no man’s land” between intelligence and personality. In P. L. Ackerman, P. C. Kyllonen, & R. D. Roberts (Eds.), Learning and individual differences: Process, trait, and content determinants (pp. 315–337). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Stankov, L., & Crawford, J. (1997). Self-confidence and performance on cognitive tests. Intelligence, 25, 93–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Stankov, L., Kleitman, S., & Jackson, S. A. (2014). Measures of the Trait of Confidence. In G. J. Boyle, D. H. Salofske, & G. Matthews (Eds.), Measures of personality and social psychological constructs (pp. 158–189). Burlington: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  74. Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (1997). Reasoning independently of prior belief and individual differences in actively open-minded thinking. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(2), 342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (1998). Individual differences in rational thought. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 127(2), 161–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Toplak, M. E., West, R. F., & Stanovich, K. E. (2016). Real-World Correlates of Performance on Heuristics and Biases Tasks in a Community Sample. Journal of Behavioural Decision Making.
  77. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2007). Using multivariate statistics (Fifth ed.). New York: Pearson International Edition.Google Scholar
  78. Thompson, C., Aitken, L., Doran, D., & Dowding, D. (2013). An agenda for clinical decision making and judgement in nursing research and education. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 50(12), 1720–1726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Thόrisdόttir, H., & Jost, J. T. (2011). Motivated closed-mindedness mediates the effect of threat on political conservatism. Political Psychology, 32, 785–811.Google Scholar
  80. Trumpeter, N., Watson, P. J., & O’Leary, B. J. (2006). Factors within multidimensional perfectionism scales: Complexity of relationships with self-esteem, narcissism, self-control, and self-criticism. Personality and Individual Differences, 41(5), 849–860.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1986). Rational choice and the framing of decisions. The Journal of Business, 59(4), 251–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1983). Extensional versus intuitive reasoning: The conjunction fallacy in probability judgment. Psychological Review, 90(4), 293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Webster, D. M., & Kruglanski, A. W. (1994). Individual differences in need for cognitive closure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(6), 1049–1062.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Weiner, B. (2005). Motivation from an attribution perspective and the social psychology of perceived competence In Andrew J. Elliot & Carol S. Dweck (eds.), Handbook of Competence and Motivation. (pp. 73–78). The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  85. Wenglert, L., & Rosen, A. S. (2000). Measuring optimism–pessimism from beliefs about future events. Personality and Individual Differences, 28(4), 717–728.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. West, R. F., Meserve, R. J., & Stanovich, K. E. (2012). Cognitive sophistication does not attenuate the bias blind spot. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(3), 506–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. West, R. F., Toplak, M. E., & Stanovich, K. E. (2008). Heuristics and biases as measures of critical thinking: Associations with cognitive ability and thinking dispositions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(4), 930–941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Wilhelm, O., Schroeders, U., & Schipolowski, S. (2009). BEFKI. Berliner Test zur Erfassung fluider und kristalliner Intelligenz [Berlin test of fluid and crystallized intelligence]. Unpublished Manuscript. Google Scholar
  89. Wilhelm, O., Schroeders, U., & Schipolowski, S. (2014). BEFKI – Berlin Test for the measurement of fluid and crystallized intelligence (middle school form). Göttingen: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
  90. Yates, J. F. (1990). Judgment and decision-making. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Crown 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations