Published: 09th March 2018
Tutorials may make you feel like you aced it, but that's just you being overconfident: Study
The study found that the more times a video or skill is viewed, the greater the perception of competency in the individual though they may fare no better than people who viewed the video fewer times
Watching YouTube videos, Instagram demos, and Facebook tutorials make people feel overconfident about acquiring all sorts of new skills, even if they don't become experts, a study has found. Researchers from the University of Chicago in the US conducted a series of six experiments to find out if watching videos without practising the demonstrated skills actually improve our ability to perform them.
In one online experiment, the researchers assigned 1,003 participants to watch a video, read step-by-step instructions, or merely think about performing the "tablecloth trick," which involves pulling a tablecloth off a table without disturbing the place settings on top.
People who watched the 5-second video 20 times were much more confident in their ability to pull off the trick than were those who watched the video once. However, people who simply read or thought about the trick for an extended period of time did not show this confidence boost.
These results provided initial evidence that repeated viewing may lead people to an inflated sense of competence. To find out whether this perception is borne out by actual performance, researchers tested a group of 193 participants on their dart-throwing abilities.
Those who watched a demo video 20 times estimated that they would score more points than those who saw the video only once. The high-exposure group also predicted that they would be more likely to hit the bullseye and reported that they had learned more technique and improved more after watching the video.
Tutorial fails: However, these perceptions did not line up with reality. People who watched the video many times scored no better than those who saw it once
The more that participants watched others perform these skills, the more they overestimated their own abilities. "Anyone who goes online to look up tips before attempting a skill - from cooking techniques to DIY home repairs to X Games tricks - would benefit from knowing that they might be overconfident in their own abilities after watching, and should exercise caution before attempting similar skills themselves," said Michael Kardas of The University of Chicago.
The researchers are interested in testing other strategies - such as playing virtual-reality games - that might mitigate the overconfidence effect, helping people to better appreciate the limitations inherent in merely watching others.