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What are the reputational consequences of being overconfident? We propose that the channel of confidence expression is one key moderator—that is, whether confidence is expressed verbally or nonverbally. In a series of experiments, participants assessed target individuals (potential collaborators or advisors) who were either overconfident or cautious. Targets expressed confidence, or a lack thereof, verbally or nonverbally. Participants then learned targets’ actual performance. Across studies, overconfidence was advantageous initially—regardless of whether targets expressed confidence verbally or nonverbally. After performance was revealed, overconfident targets who had expressed confidence verbally were viewed more negatively than cautious targets; however, overconfident targets who had expressed confidence nonverbally were still viewed more positively than cautious ones. The one condition wherein nonverbal overconfidence was detrimental was when confidence was clearly tied to a falsifiable claim. Results suggest that, compared to verbal statements, nonverbal overconfidence reaps reputational benefits because of its plausible deniability.
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