Tag Archives: machismo

Why “I don’t know” doesn’t read as macho

Great post from Cathy about the need to be able to assert uncertainty in a, well, assertive way.  Why is this so hard?  Why do we find people trustworthy when they say, with complete confidence, “Here’s your answer?”

One reason must be that in some contexts, confidence really does correlate with knowledge; people who truly know nothing about a subject are (hopefully) more willing to express uncertainty about it.  So when we hear someone answer a question with “I’m not sure,” we have to carry out some inferential computation:  do we think they’re saying that because they’ve never thought about the question, or because they’ve thought enough about the question to understand that it’s actually difficult?

I don’t have an answer to this conundrum, but I do have an extremely scientific infographic that I hope will illustrate the issue.



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