Careers: Thinking you're cleverer than you actually are brings success, but could make you unpopular with your colleagues

Sarah Spickernell
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Intellectually arrogant people tend to achieve better scores in tests
Intellectually arrogant people tend to achieve better scores in tests (Source: Getty)

When it comes to success, it's not just having brains that brings you rewards – having an inflated view of your own ability also gives your career a boost.

When researchers at Baylor University in Texas compared the academic results of intellectually arrogant students with those of intellectually humble students, they found a clear correlation – the more arrogant the student, the better they performed. Details are published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

"One possibility is that people who view themselves as intellectually arrogant know what they know and that translates to increases in academic performance," said Wade Rowatt, one of the researchers involved.

Common character traits ascribed to them were extroversion, attention-seeking and dominance. The humble, meanwhile, were viewed by their peers as competent, agreeable and open to criticism.

This was the discovery made through tests on a group of more than 100 undergraduate students who spent a large amount of time in each other's company.

Using questionnaires and intelligence tests, they gave each person a score for intellectual arrogance, with the most arrogant having an inflated view of their actual intelligence, and the humble having an accurate view.

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But while viewing yourself as something special has its perks, both in academia and in the workplace, the researchers provided a warning: it can make you fairly unpopular among colleagues. In group tests, the arrogant students were consistently given worse evaluations by their peers.

“What I think is important about intellectual humility is its necessity for not only science, but for just learning generally - and that applies to the classroom, a work setting, wherever," said lead researcher Benjamin Meagher.

Learning something new requires first acknowledging your own ignorance and being willing to make your ignorance known to others. People clearly differ in terms of their willingness to do something like that, but that willingness to learn, change one's mind and value the opinion of others is really needed if people and groups are going to develop and grow.

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