January 30, 2008

Confidence? Faith? Boasting?

I've been wondering about the confidence that professional athletes and politicians have been displaying lately. New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress said on Monday that the Giants would beat the Patriots 23-17 in Sunday's Superbowl. (New York Times article). Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday's edition of Face the Nation that he was going to win in Florida.

I hope that the Giants beat the Patriots on Sunday, but I don't have Burress' confidence. I'm not a politician or a pollster, but I didn't think Giuliani would win in Florida. We don't know yet who will win the Superbowl, but we do know that Giuliani didn't win in Florida.

Cognitively, where does this faith, this certainty come from? Is it hormonal, like when a baby is born and the mother is immediately ready to breastfeed, and possibly even "energized"? Is there a hormone for confidence (maybe testosterone? pure speculation on my part...)

I clearly don't have it. I didn't believe the Giants could win any of their last four games, and I was right only 25% of that time, and they are in the Superbowl. And the one time I was wrong, they lost to the undefeated Patriots by only 3 points. Does my pessimism, or native New Yorker status, prime me for this lack of faith in my team? Does Plax's testosterone prime him for his belief that the Giants will prevail on Sunday?

Some cognitive scientist knows, and possibly will refer us to an article or study showing where confidence in the face of insurmountable odds comes from.

In the meantime, go Giants!

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