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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Oh, does this ever explain a lot of things.

Overconfident people are more likely to wage war, but less likely to succeed at warfare. That's the conclusion of a US university study that looked at the fortunes of 200 players in a computer war game.

The results of the study appears to back up a theory that 'positive illusions' can contribute to real-world conflicts; in other words, having a positive attitude can cause people to become overconfident. While having optimistic expectations in everyday life can help people deal with problems and bluff opponents, overconfidence on the battlefield can lead to disaster.

In that study, each of the 200 participants played the leader of a country in conflict with another over diamond resources that lay on a disputed border, and their goal was to amass the most wealth or to beat their opponent in war. Before the game started, each person was asked how they thought their performance would compare to that of the other people in the experiment.

Each player began with $100 million in game money to invest in their military or industrial infrastructure, or to reserve as cash. The program gave them constant updates about the offers and actions of their opponents.

Careful negotiations with opponents could win players additional resources in exchange for the diamonds. But they also had the option of waging war. Their victory in battle was determined by how much they had invested in their military, along with an element of chance.

Players who made higher-than-average predictions of their performance — those who had higher confidence — were more likely to carry out unprovoked attacks. These warmongers ranked themselves on average at number 60 out of the 200 players, while those who avoided war averaged out at the 75 position.

A further analysis showed that people with higher self-rankings ended up worse off at the end of the game. "Those who expected to do best tended to do worst," the researchers say. "This suggests that positive illusions were not only misguided but actually may have been detrimental to performance in this scenario."

The obvious real-world conclusion that can be drawn from the study's results didn't escape researchers:

"This study fits within a relatively new field of research which connects motivations of individual people to their collective behaviour," says [University of Connecticut researcher Peter] Turchin.

"One wishes that members of the Bush administration had known about this research before they initiated invasion of Iraq three years ago," he adds. "I think it would be fair to say that the general opinion of political scientists is that the Bush administration was overconfident of victory, and that the Iraq war is a debacle."

Via New Scientist.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:14 AM | Get permalink




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