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Apr 09, 2015 11:47 AM EDT

Overconfidence in Technology May Influence Decision-Making

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Perceptions of technology may influence decision making, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Missouri found that people tend to overestimate the likelihood of new technologies' success; this overconfidence can influence important decisions, such as investment choices.

"Technology has advanced to the extent that people may not understand how a particular technology works, but they do assume that it will work," Chris Robert, associate professor of management in the MU Trulaske College of Business, said in a statement. "We found that people unconsciously associate technology with the notion of success, and this association influences decisions about things like financial decisions, and forecasts of business performance. It is important to determine how this assumption may affect people's choices because many important decisions involve technology in some fashion."

Researchers described overconfidence in technology and its potential for successful outcomes as the "technology effect." They proposed that this effect is driven by constant exposure to technology, and especially examples of successful technology, whereas less attention is paid to the myriad technological failures, many of which are never publicized or are viewed as temporary failures.

"It turns out that people have more confidence that unfamiliar technologies will provide solutions to a range of problems," Robert said. "People seem to put new technology in a category of 'great things that work which I love but don't understand,' whereas they are not as excited about familiar technologies like electricity, solar power or telephones, and they don't believe these technologies are as likely to provide new solutions."

Robert said the research also suggests the technology effect might influence people's behaviors in everyday life.

"For some people, the technology effect might include the idea that unhealthy behaviors like a poor diet are less impactful because they think that eventually, someone will develop technology that provides a cure for their illness."

The findings are detailed in the Journal of Business and Psychology

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