Study shows people overconfident with technology

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COLUMBIA - Technology is an important commodity these days. With the advent of smart phones, tablets, and faster computers, people seem to be relying upon it more and more.

A recent study from researchers at MU found people were actually becoming overconfident when it comes to technology. 

"We had a suspicion that over time when people are exposed technologies, and usually they are exposed to successful technologies, that they start to associate success or winning with technology," said Chris Robert, one of the coauthors of the study.

The three researchers conducted three studies over the course of three years. Each study looked at a different aspect of technology and success.

The first looked at people's stock-picking decisions when the stocks included companies that specialized in a certain technology. The second looked at forecasts of business success. The other was a psychologically-oriented study that looked at people's unconscious belief of success and technology.

In all three studies, Robert said they saw people going the way of new technology, regardless of whether they knew anything about it.

He said when it came down to making decisions, people would tend to choose unknown technology to help because they had seen it succeed in the past.

"I have a phone in my pocket, and it's pretty much like a communicator from Star Trek. I know that it works, and I know how to use it, but I have no idea how it works," he said. "Because of that I am more likely to think other things that I don't know are also going to lead to positive outcomes and successful outcomes."

Financial planner Adam Bethel said he thinks this could be dangerous. He said when it comes to picking stocks, people can't pick based on what's hot at the moment but should think more long term.

"You can't predict future performance of an investment based on what's happened in the past," he said. "There are certain asset classes that have had great track records over the last 30 years that I don't have much confidence in for the next ten years."

Robert also agreed relying overconfidently on technology could present unforeseen consequences.

He said some governments might begin to believe if technology is involved in decisions about how to distribute resources, and it will always be successful, they might allocate scarce resources to technological solutions that might not work out.

"Similarly even individuals might believe that technology will be able to solve a lot of their problems," he said."It might be one of those small things in the back of our heads that causes us to make a decision in a way that might not be the most appropriate decision."