Warning: Male Doctors Are More Sure of Themselves…and More Wrong

A recent study revealed gender differences in med students when it comes to confidence and knowledge.

It seems the ladies are in need of a confidence boost and (surprise, surprise) the men are not.

The collection of female med students answered medical questions correctly more often than their male counterparts, but were less certain about their answers.

The study was the result of user-generated question banks from 14,000 participants. After answering the question, the participants had to reveal their degree of confidence on their accuracy; they could choose between “I’m sure,” “Feeling lucky,” and “No clue.”

The responses of 1,021 users were analyzed, and included 617 men and 404 women who answered at least 50 questions.

The verdict?

Well, the women were accurate 61.4 per cent of the time, compared to 60.3 per cent for the men. However – and it’s kind of a big however – women selected “I’m sure” significantly less often (39.5 per cent) than men did (44.4 per cent).

The women averaged higher rates of accuracy in both the “I’m sure,” and the “Feeling Lucky” category (80.5 per cent vs. 78.3 per cent, and 53.5 per cent versus 49.8 per cent).

Three male med students wrote that the link between confidence and accuracy might help reduce diagnostic errors due to overconfidence. It’s up to the doctor, of course, to find that balance between being overly confident and running additional diagnostic testing.

What does this mean for the rest of us?

On the flip side, just because your doctor appears to lack confidence, it doesn’t mean that he or she lacks knowledge.

In the larger picture, it would be interesting to explore whether this trend is found between males and females in industries other than the medical field. We’re pretty sure it would be…but then again, maybe we’re just being overconfident. 


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