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Too much confidence equals lower reading scores for teens

July 31, 2009 |  1:46 pm

Having loads of self-confidence is a good thing, right?

Maybe not when it comes to reading skills. In a new study, researchers discovered that teenage students who were overconfident had lower reading comprehension than students who were under-confident. They analyzed reading tests and questionnaire replies of 158,848 15-year-olds in 34 countries.

Knigbqnc In all countries, students who were overconfident were more apt to test below their country's average on reading scores. Conversely, those who were under-confident were more likely to score above the country's average.

Though instilling children with self-confidence has been a societal goal for some years, it seems there can be too much of a good thing. In this instance, the study's lead author believes that teens who are too self-assured might not be able to correctly determine their reading level.

In a news release, Ming Ming Chiu, a professor in the department of learning and instruction in the University at Buffalo's Graduate School of Education, said, "If an overconfident student chooses a book that is too hard -- such as 'The Lord of the Rings' rather than 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,' he or she might stop reading after a few pages and let it sit on a bookshelf. In contrast, a more self-aware student is more likely to finish an easier book and continue reading more books." In the study, the authors wrote, "Chronic doubts about abilities may be a sign of academic difficulties, but chronic overconfidence may also mask real academic difficulties, and students appear to perform best in all settings when displaying modest levels of [self-concept]."

The study appears in the July issue of the journal Learning and Individual Differences.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo credit: Jessica Hill / AP