Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Joyce Ehrlinger | Social Cognition Lab JOYCE EHRLINGER | SOCIAL COGNITION LAB

Dr. Ehrlinger’s Research on Overconfidence Published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology!

Understanding Overconfidence: Theories of Intelligence, Preferential Attention and Distorted Self-Assessment


Knowing what we don’t yet know is critical for learning. Nonetheless, people typically overestimate their prowess—but is this true of everyone? Three studies examined who shows overconfidence and why. Study 1 demonstrated that participants with an entity (fixed) theory of intelligence, those known to avoid negative information, showed significantly more overconfidence than those with more incremental (malleable) theories. In Study 2, participants who were taught an entity theory of intelligence allocated less attention to difficult problems than those taught an incremental theory. Participants in this entity condition also displayed more overconfidence than those in the incremental condition, and this difference in overconfidence was mediated by the observed bias in attention to difficult problems. Finally, in Study 3, directing participants’ attention to difficult aspects of the task reduced the overconfidence of those with more entity views of intelligence. Implications for reducing biased self-assessments that can interfere with learning were discussed.

For more details and to view the full article clink on the following link:

Happy Holidays from the Social Cognition Lab!


Santa (aka our thoughtful and crafty post-doc) made a special stop this year and delivered goodies to our lab meeting. Thank you, Marissa! We are so lucky to have you on our research team.

Happy Holidays! Wishing you and your loved ones a festive season filled with joy and a peaceful and prosperous new year.


Mycah Harrold and Jordan Vossen’s Poster Submissions have been Accepted for Presentation at the 2016 SPSP Annual Convention in San Diego, California

Congratulations Mycah and Jordan! The lab is happy to acknowledge that two of our graduate students have been asked to present their research at the 2016 SPSP Annual Convention in San Diego, California. The convention will be held this coming January 28th-30th.

Mycah will be presenting a poster titled “Incremental Theories Predict Academic Success through Time Spent Studying”

Abstract: Incremental theorists, who view intelligence as malleable, perform better academically than entity theorists, who view intelligence as fixed. Little is known about the specific behaviors that contribute to incremental theorists’ relative success. The present study sought to fill this gap in the literature by asking 243 high-school students to complete two math tutorials and 14 practice problems in their normal math classes. A test of sustained learning was administered one week later. Incremental theorists spent more time completing the practice questions which led to more correct answers. Higher scores on the practice questions predicted better performance on the final test. Results revealed an indirect effect of intelligence theory on sustained learning through the amount of time spent on practice problems and, in turn, success on those problems. Thus, incremental theorists may achieve more academically than entity theorists, in part, because they persist longer while studying.

Jordan will be presenting a poster titled “Perceiving an Entity Theory in the Classroom Environment Increases Math Anxiety and Lowers Test Performance”

Abstract: Personal theories of intelligence range from the belief that intelligence is malleable (incremental theory) to believing intelligence is fixed (entity theory). Students’ classroom theories also range from believing that a strong entity or, on the other end of the scale, a strong incremental theory is predominantly held by others in one’s math class. Past research has demonstrated that for personal theories, stronger incremental views predict academic success, but less is known about the consequences of perceived classroom theories. We found that both classroom and personal entity theories independently lead to higher math anxiety. In contrast, an incremental perspective—held by the self or perceived in the classroom— acts as a buffer leading to lower math anxiety and, in turn, better performance. This suggests that fostering an incremental theory in the classroom, in addition to personally held incremental views, can benefit students’ academic performance.

Description: In this field study, student perceptions of entity theories in the classroom predicts increased math anxiety independent of personal intelligence theories. An incremental perspective, both when perceived in the classroom and when held personally, acts as a buffer leading to lower math anxiety, and in turn, better academic performance.

Congratulations to Undergraduate Presenters at 12th Annual Psychology Symposium

The Social Cognition Lab would like to congratulate our undergraduate research assistants that presented at the Psychology Research Symposium last Friday (4/24). Audra Biermann and Marissa Ballard, winners of the Psychology Undergraduate Research Grant, presented their research on the effects of boredom vs. disgust on mood and the desire for novelty. Crysta Cady, member of the McNair Achievement Program and the First Scholars Program, presented her research on the effects of parent attitudes on higher education in minority students.


IMG_1550    IMG_1545
Top: Joyce Ehrlinger, PhD, Audra Biermann, Marissa Ballard, and Shane Bench, PhD

Bottom: Joyce Ehrlinger, PhD and Crysta Cady


Postdoc opening in Joyce Ehrlinger’s Social Cognition Lab

I am reposting info about this post doctoral position in my lab after an offer fell through. I hope to move quickly in reviewing applications and making an offer. Applications will be reviewed upon receipt and the position will be open until filled.

The Social Cognition lab in the Department of Psychology at Washington State University is seeking to fill a two-year grant-funded postdoctoral position, with a start date of August 15, 2015. The successful applicant would work closely with Dr. Joyce Ehrlinger on a project funded by the Institute for Education Sciences. The project is focused on understanding how people’s implicit theories of intelligence shape their metacognitive judgments, use of self-regulated learning strategies and, ultimately, success in learning. In general, this position will be particularly interesting for applicants with interests in social psychological interventions that target students’ feelings of confidence and belongingness. Washington State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action educator and employer.

QUALIFICATIONS: The successful candidate should hold a PhD in Social Psychology or a closely related field by August 15, 2015. Candidates should have strong experimental design, quantitative, and writing skills. It is also important that the candidate works well independently and has strong interpersonal skills. The position is open with respect to area of research specialization but we are particularly interested in individuals with research interests related to Dr. Ehrlinger’s research in self and social judgment, metacognition, and social psychological intervention research (see for more information). We are interested in candidates whose research falls within social psychology or lies at the intersection between social and cognitive psychology.

APPLICATIONS: Applicants should apply online through WSU Human Resources ( and submit a letter of application describing their relevant experience, a current curriculum vitae, reprints, and three letters of recommendation. Review of applications in already underway and will continue until position is filled. Direct inquiries via email to Joyce Ehrlinger at

Dr. Ehrlinger’s work discussed in The Confidence Ceiling

Dr. Ehrlinger’s work was recently discussed, and she was quoted, in the following article:

Why do so many women have such a hard time believing in themselves?

Ever feel plagued by self-doubt? Consider the following: “I still face situations that I fear are beyond my qualifications. I still have days when I feel like a fraud,” says Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.