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The Influence of Speech Confidence on Choice and Decision Confidence Dr Briony Pulford Psychology Division University of Wolverhampton.

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Presentation on theme: "The Influence of Speech Confidence on Choice and Decision Confidence Dr Briony Pulford Psychology Division University of Wolverhampton."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Influence of Speech Confidence on Choice and Decision Confidence Dr Briony Pulford Psychology Division University of Wolverhampton

2 Abstract Objectives: The influence generated by the confidence of a person's speech was investigated, firstly on the choice of answers that people make and secondly on the confidence that they then hold in those answers. The influence of the gender of the speaker and listener on persuasive impact were also investigated. Design: A mixed factorial design was employed: 3 (degree of confidence of the text's ‘speaker’; within subjects) x 2 (speakers' gender) x 2 (group). Choice of answer and confidence in it were the DVs. Methods: 290 undergraduates participated and were asked to choose the correct definition of 9 unusual words. In the experimental group the three definitions were supplemented by ‘confidence cues’ (previously developed in a pilot study) indicating the confidence of the speaker to be either high, medium or low, which the control group did not receive. The genders of the three speakers were either all male or all female. Participants were also asked to give their impressions of the three speakers, using 7 point Likert scales. Results: Significant interactions showed that high and low speech confidence had the most aversive impact on the choices of females who listened to males. Speech confidence had some influence on choice and raised listeners' confidence by around 10%. Conclusions: This research shows that the gender of the speaker and listener does influence whether confident speech is perceived positively or negatively. Knowing the confidence of the speaker raises confidence in one's own choices and also influences the impressions formed about the speaker's character.

3 Introduction The term confidence describes a person’s belief that his or her knowledge, judgement or decision is correct. Both the police and jurors in a courtroom are faced with making judgements about how confident a person is, for example, a witness to a crime. When faced with a confident eyewitness or a non-confident one, which one would you believe? London, Meldman and Lanckton (1970) studied persuasion in simulated two- person juries and concluded that “the single significant behavioral difference between persuaders and persuadees was in the expression of confidence” (p. 182), and that in dyadic interactions persuasion is a function neither of intelligence, pre-discussion conviction, position, or ability but of the expression of confidence during the discussion. Whilst discussing an issue words are used that communicate confidence and doubt in one's own and the other's positions. London et al. questioned whether expressed confidence is a means by which informational influence is transmitted.

4 When a group gets together to perform a task it is advantageous if they can identify the members of that group that have the best judgement, but identification of the best members is difficult ( Einhorn, Hogarth, & Klempner, 1977). It is made easier if members of the group can assess their confidence accurately and communicate it to the group (Sniezek & Henry, 1989). But people are over or underconfident and may communicate their confidence poorly - either intentionally or unintentionally. Unintentional miscommunication may occur because the language used is imprecise or ambiguous (Sniezek & Henry, 1989). There is also the problem of over- and under-confident people. Some people are not very good at monitoring their levels of confidence and may seem very sure they are right and persuade you to go along with them, only for you to find out later that they were wrong.

5 Thomas and McFadyen (1995) argue for the presence of a “confidence heuristic”; a short-cut to arriving at a decision in conditions of uncertainty that uses the confidence with which information is expressed to assess the reliability of the information. This heuristic, like many others, can be prone to error. Our society may have different expectations about the confidence that may be expressed by men and women, and as such the impact of hearing different levels of confidence coming from men and women should differ according to one's own gender. In a society where modesty is feminine and confidence is masculine the low confidence male and the highly confident female may stand out from the crowd and as such may not be liked or as persuasive. That confidence has a role in persuasion in groups seems clear, but the way that confidence is communicated between group members remains to be discovered. Thus this study aims to find out how confident and non-confident language is perceived by listeners and what impact it has on their decisions and confidence.

6 Method Participants The 290 participants in the experiment were British undergraduate students and members of the general public who volunteered for the study (178 women and 112 men, mean age = 28.35 years, SD = 11.82 years). Materials A pilot study was carried out to generate a pool of 'confidence cues', for example, phrases such as "At a guess", "I'm not sure", "I think this is", "It's probably", "I'm certain that", "Without doubt" (see Table 1).

7 Table 1 Confidence Cues

8  Once the perceived confidence of the speaker was known the cues were rank ordered and then three cues of differing levels of confidence (one from the top, middle and bottom of the range) were selected and attached as a prefix to three definitions of an unusual word, only one of which was the correct meaning. This was repeated for 9 unusual words which were selected from a dictionary (Penannular, Tapotement, Meliorism, Crewel, Samite, Cheops, Gullah, Dorp, and Barysphere) giving 27 definitions with confidence cues attached.  Obscure words were chosen to make the task difficult and the observed behaviour representative of how people behave when they feel uncertain (which is when they turn to other people for advice).  The gender of the speaker was varied, so that half of the questionnaires had male speakers names only (John, Ben, Mark) and the rest had female speakers (Sarah, Liz, Anne). In the Experimental condition the highly confident speakers were John and Sarah, the medium confidence speakers were Ben and Liz, and the low confidence speakers were Mark and Anne. 1) Barysphere John:This is easy, it’s an early type of submersible diving bell. Ben:I think this is a layer of the earth’s interior. Mark:I’m not sure but it could be a type of mineral that has a round appearance.

9 Design and Procedure The study was a 2 (group; confidence cues or no confidence cues) x 2 (speakers’ gender) x 2 (listeners’ gender) x 3 (speaker’s confidence level) mixed design with repeated measures on the last variable. The first dependent variable was the percentage of the time that each speaker’s answer (John/Sarah, Ben/Liz, Mark/Anne – the high, medium and low confidence speakers respectively in the experimental condition – abbreviated to A, B and C in the statistical analyses) was chosen out of nine questions. The second and third dependent variables were the mean confidence and accuracy scores of the participant’s answers when they agreed with the high, medium and low confidence speakers. The control condition was used to determine the percentage of the population that chose each of the three answers for each definition (question) when they were not phrased with any confidence cues attached to them. The participants were asked to circle which one of the three speakers gave the answer they thought was correct, and how confident they felt that their choice of answer was correct.

10 Finally, participants were also asked to give their impressions of the three speakers, using 7 point response scales to assess; intelligence (1 = highly intelligent, 7 = quite low intelligence), friendliness (1 = not at all friendly, 7 = extremely friendly), self-confidence (1 = high self-confidence, 7 = quite low self-confidence), competence (1 = not very competent, 7 = very competent), optimism/pessimism (1 = optimist, 7 = pessimist). They also indicated which person they liked most and least, and trusted most and least. Each of the three speakers gave the correct answer the same number of times so that judgements made about them would be based upon their portrayed confidence and not their actual accuracy and knowledge. Therefore if participants in the experimental condition tend to agree with one of the speakers rather than the others then this must be due to the speaker's confidence level and not their accuracy.

11 Results An ANCOVA with age as a covariate showed that accuracy was based on the participant’s knowledge and was not affected by any independent variable in the experiment. The Influence of Speakers’ Confidence on Choice of Answer When the confidence cues were added in the experimental condition the participants showed a small but significant switch in their preference of answer, with 4.43% fewer participants choosing the high confidence speaker, 7.46% more choosing the medium, and 3.04% (ns) less choosing the low confidence speaker, F(2, 572) = 7.54, p =.001. To make understanding the interactions simpler the bars in Figures 1 and 2 represent the differences between the mean scores for the control group and the experimental group, who saw the confidence cues. Thus a score near to zero indicates that there was no difference between the two groups and the independent variables did not affect the experimental group’s answers.

12 Figure 1: The Effect of Gender, Speakers’ Gender and Speaker’s Confidence on Choice of Answer

13 Low confidence speech seems to have little effect on the attractiveness of an answer when people are uncertain of themselves, whereas highly confident speech seems off-putting to some people who then choose the answer given by the medium confidence speaker instead. Figure 1 shows that males in the experimental condition did not alter their choice of answer when exposed to the high, medium and low confidence cues, F(2, 216) =.21, p =.81, compared with the control group. The difference scores for males in Figure 1 are all close to zero, for all conditions, showing that males are unaffected by the gender or confidence of the speaker they are listening to. Females show a 6.82% move away from the answers which are given by the highly confident speaker, t(176) = 2.77, p =.01, a non-significant drop of 2.87% when the answer is spoken by a low confidence speaker, t(176) = 1.16, p =.25, and a significant increase of 9.69% in choosing the answer given by the medium confidence speaker, t(176) = 3.95, p =.0001. Figure 1 show that the highly confident speaker is off-putting to some female listeners but the gender of the speaker is not important here. However, females show a dislike of the low confidence male speaker (a 6.92% drop in choosing the answer when low confidence cues are given, t(88) = 2.02, p <.05) with a large shift towards the medium confidence male (a 13.31% rise in choosing the answer when medium confidence cues are given, t(88) = 3.72, p =.001), but do not seem to be put off an answer given by a low confidence female speaker (a non-significant 1.40% rise).

14 The Influence of Speakers’ Confidence on Participants’ Confidence Males were significantly more confident than females in the control condition (41% vs 30%) but both showed the same level of confidence in the experimental condition (44% and 42%) as females’ confidence rose but males’ confidence did not, F(1, 260) = 4.45, p =.05. The addition of confidence cues (irrespective of the level of confidence) significantly raised female participants’ confidence by 11.74%, F(1, 158) = 18.93, p =.001, by an average of 17.44% when listening to women and by 7.02% when listening to men, this interaction was approaching significance, F(1, 158) = 3.44, p =.07. The presence of confidence cues did not, however, raise the males’ confidence levels significantly (2.60%, F(1, 98) = 1.04, p =.31). There is, however, a significant interaction of group with the speakers’ level of confidence, which shows that highly confident speakers significantly raise males’ confidence by 8.78% (t(109) = 2.27, p =.03) but that medium and low confidence speakers did not raise confidence at all for male listeners (1.22% and 0.25%) The situation for female listeners was different though, there was a nearly significant interaction between speakers’ level of confidence and group, F(2, 316) = 2.82, p =.06, showing that the high confidence speaker raised women’s confidence by 15.19%, the medium confidence speaker raised it by 9.60% and the low confidence speaker raised it by 10.05% (all at p <.001).

15 Figure 2, the Effect of Gender, Speakers’ Gender and Spealers’ Confidence on Confidence

16 In order to make the four way interaction more easily understood Figure 2 shows the change in confidence between the control and the experimental groups that is attributable to the introduction of the confidence cues. Figure 2 shows how men’s confidence is unaffected by listening to women. When men hear medium and low confidence female speakers their confidence drops fractionally (-5.22%, and –2.10 respectively, both non-significant). High confidence women speakers have more of an influence than medium and low confidence female speakers but still do not significantly increase men’s confidence (7.49%). When women listen to men they raise their confidence most when the man is high in confidence (11.28%), less when the man has medium confidence (8.05) and non- significantly (2.58) when the man has low confidence. Women’s confidence is boosted the most when they listen to other women, especially when the speaker has high or low confidence, but all levels of confidence spoken by women significantly raise women’s confidence in their answers.

17 Attributions About the Speakers The control and experimental groups significantly differed in which speaker they liked most and it can be concluded that speaking with high confidence makes the majority of listeners develop a dislike for the speaker, and the majority of listeners like the medium confidence speaker the most. The confidence cues attached to the definitions made participants in the experimental group like and trust the medium confidence speaker the most, and dislike and mistrust the highly confident speaker. The trend was the same for male and female listeners, but was more pronounced for females as about 10% more females than males switched to the medium confidence speaker for who they liked and trusted most, and around 15% more females than males disliked and mistrusted the high confidence speaker the most.

18 Fig 3: Attributions about Speakers

19 Figure 3 shows that ratings of intelligence and competence ratings did not change much when confidence cues were added in the experimental group. In this experiment confidence cues do not seem to influence these attributions. Changes in ratings when confidence cues are added show that medium and low confidence speakers were rated as much more friendly than the high confidence speaker, who in turn was rated as more self-confident (2) than both of them (the medium confidence speaker was correctly assigned a score of 4 which was average confidence and the low confidence speaker scored 5 which is lower than average confidence, additional evidence that the participants had detected the confidence cues). The ratings of optimism showed that the highly confident speaker was seen as an optimist, and the low confidence speaker a pessimist, which the control group did not perceive them as, and the medium confidence speaker’s rating of optimism was unaffected when compared with the control group.

20 Discussion To conclude, the results of this experiment show that men’s confidence is only raised 9% by highly confident speakers, and their choice of answer is unaffected by the speakers’ confidence. Women’s confidence is significantly raised by 12% when they hear how confident the speaker feels in their answer, and the high confidence speaker raises women’s confidence the most (15%), although the high confidence speaker can lead to a 7% drop in the number of women agreeing with their answer. The medium confidence speaker attracts women to agree with them 10% more often and promotes confidence by 10%. The low confidence speaker does not put women off their answer and also raises confidence by 10%. Within the boundaries of this experimental situation it appears that if you wish to persuade a woman that the answer that you give is correct then speak with medium confidence, especially if you are a man. If you are trying to persuade a man then it does not matter how confidently you speak as all levels of confidence will have no effect on the choice that he makes, but the only way to raise his confidence in his answer is to speak with a high level of confidence yourself (especially if you are a woman). There may be gender differences in the ability to detect confidence cues, meaning that they are used when they are perceived, but men perceive them less often. This remains to be investigated.

21 Although the control group had no confidence tags attached it cannot be claimed that they had no implicit confidence within them. The absence of doubtful confidence cues may make the control statements seem fairly factual and certain. This needs investigating. The experiment showed that people liked the medium confidence speaker more than the high and low conf speaker, and thus likeability of the speaker may have been a factor used in choice of answer when they were completely uncertain. Thomas and McFadyen (1995) say that the confidence heuristic is “simply to adopt the option which is most confidently argued for” (p. 105). My research shows that the most confident speaker is not the one people adopt, women preferred the medium confidence speaker and men were unaffected by confident speech, thus disputing their definition of the confidence heuristic. It may be that people do recognise that the relationship between confidence and accuracy is not a strong one, it was only around r =.17 in this experiment, and this is why they are more persuaded by the medium than the high confidence speaker, who they may label as overconfident. This research now needs extending to see if confidence cues are only used in a low personal relevance situation where heuristics are used, or whether in fact they also have an influence when people are using deeper processing strategies.

22 References Einhorn, H. J., Hogarth, R. M., & Klempner, E. (1977). Quality of group judgment. Psychological Bulletin, 84, 158-172. London, H., Meldman, P. J., & Lanckton, A. V. C. (1970). The jury method: How the persuader persuades. Public Opinion Quarterly, 34, 171-183. Sniezek, J. A., & Henry, R. A. (1989). Accuracy and confidence in group judgment. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 43, 1-28. Thomas, J. P., & McFadyen, R. G. (1995). The confidence heuristic: A game-theoretic analysis. Journal of Economic Psychology, 16, 97-113.


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