Watching Others Perform Tasks Increases Own Confidence

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Scientists reveal that people gain the confidence to attempt tasks they might not be ready for, by simply watching others perform those tasks, according to a new study published on March 8, 2018.

A team of researchers from the Department of Psychology, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, studied the behavior of people watching YouTube videos, Instagram demos, and Facebook tutorials. Michael Kardas, lead author of the study, revealed “The more that people watched others, the more they felt they could perform the same skill, too — even when their abilities hadn’t actually changed for the better. Our findings suggest that merely watching others could cause people to attempt skills that they might not be ready or able to perform themselves.”

They conducted an online experiment, by assigning tasks of watching a video, reading step-by-step instructions, or merely thinking about performing the tablecloth trick, to 1,003 participants. Those who watched the 5-second video 20 times showed more confidence at pulling the cloth off the table, than those who watched the video once. They further noted that those who simply read or thought about the trick did not show the same exaggerated level of confidence. This revealed evidence that repeated viewing may inflate a person’s sense of competence.

Kardas and O’Brien conducted a study to further test the results, which included a group of 193 participants to throw darts. The participants who watched a demo video 20 times, estimated their ability to score more points than those who saw the video only once.

However, these perceptions did not line up with reality. It was observed that those who saw the video several times did not score any better than those who watched the video once.

They found this phenomenon occurring while playing digital computer games and juggling. As the number of times of watching others perform these tasks increased, viewers tended to overestimate their own abilities.


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