How many of you have completely misjudged the amount of time it will take to finish something such as writing up an eval, testing a child, or completing your progress notes? For me, I chronically suffer from such optimism but after all these years can I really be this bad at estimating? Or, is there something else at play that is undermining my ability to block off an appropriate amount of time effectively? I was relieved when I learned about the Overconfidence Effect because I suddenly saw how my best intentions and positive disposition were getting in my way.

The overconfidence effect is a form of bias rooted in the discrepancy between confidence and accuracy. This cognitive bias often leads individuals to overestimate their capabilities and underestimate the tasks at hand.

In this fifth essay on bias, we embark on a journey to unravel the mysteries of the overconfidence effect. We will start with some fun experiments so that we understand how it works and how we are all susceptible to it. Then we will talk about its impact on speech language pathology.

Deciphering the Overconfidence Effect: Insights from Street Trivia to Clinical Practice

I’ve been really attracted to the word “agency” lately because I see it being used more and more to describe taking the power back from a situation that seems out of our control by seeing our part in it. It’s not about forgiveness or having to take responsibility for a situation that might be thrust upon us. Rather, it’s a way to see our role in the situation and thereby understand how we can manage it in a heathy way. When I learned about the overconfidence effect, it had me start asking myself questions like:

How much of the stress that I am feeling about what is on my plate, is due to the amount of time I allocated for it, how long I waited to begin working on it, or whether I broke it into pieces, or tried to do it all at once?

I found that my own thoughts on how experienced I am and how familiar I am with the task had me thinking things would take less time and relatedly, starting them too close to when they were due. Let’s start with a fun experiment and a video so that you can wrap your own mind around the overconfidence effect.

Fun Research on the Overconfidence Effect

Think about how many countries you believe are in Africa.

Now, come up with a range of numbers that you believe, without a doubt, that your answer is in.

What is your lowest estimate?

What is your highest estimate?

Got it? Now watch this video:


A simple experiment involving street trivia questions exposes the innate tendency of individuals to narrow their confidence intervals, despite lacking concrete knowledge. To make matters worse, when we actually have experience or knowledge in an area, we are actually more overconfident.

Navigating the Pitfalls of the Overconfidence Effect in Speech Language Pathology

In the realm of speech pathology, the overconfidence effect manifests in the eternal optimism of practitioners, particularly when it comes to task estimation and time management. Whether it’s completing paperwork, conducting evaluations, or documenting progress notes, the allure of optimism often clouds our judgment, leading us to underestimate the time and effort required for each task.

As eternal optimists, we convince ourselves that there’s always enough time until reality catches up, leaving us scrambling to meet deadlines.

The good news is that the overconfidence effect is not an insurmountable obstacle. By acknowledging its presence and understanding its implications, speech pathologists can employ various strategies to mitigate its impact and enhance productivity.

Early Action

One effective strategy involves embracing the power of early action. By tackling tasks promptly and proactively, practitioners can circumvent the pitfalls of overconfidence and ensure ample time for completion. Whether it’s writing evaluations, documenting progress notes, or coordinating with colleagues, early action provides a buffer against the pressures of impending deadlines.

There is an added bonus to Early Action I find, “early” doesn’t just provide you with more time in case your estimate is wrong. If you write your report right after testing or do your progress notes right after therapy, it’s top-of-mind and actually gets done is less overall time.

Early Action Strategies:

  • Begin writing immediately after testing
  • Test at the beginning of your 60-day testing window (schools)
  • Schedule your annual meetings 2-3 weeks before they are due to account for rescheduling (schools)
  • Start writing your notes as the session is ending

Use Time Blocking Not Total Time

It’s clear that we have no actual idea how long a task will take. Therefore, just commit to working for a time that is acceptable to you.

Time Blocking means setting a time to work on it with no commitment that it will be done by the end of this time. The timeframe is short so that you don’t feel averse to doing it. 30-45 minutes is usually really easy and matches therapy session times so it is perfect for when there is a no-show or cancellation.

There is also no beating yourself up for not completing something when you confidently thought you would have had it done. Think about how ridiculous this is. Reports take a variety of times to finish depending on how complex they are. Secondly, they depend on how you are feeling and how much energy you have. Thirdly, are your writing in the morning or the afternoon? Each provides completely different levels of energy and influences your ability to stay on task. Fourthly, are you testing in the fall or spring? We have completely different set of responsibilities at different times of the year. Yet, here were are confidently saying: “A report takes me X# of hours to complete.”

I find that I benefit from time blocking two ways: it helps gets me started on things I don’t want to do and puts limitations around things I would spend too much time on. Here are two examples using 30 minutes:

Report writing: I don’t like it!!! But I am willing to “start” and commit to just a half hour. Usually once I am going, I write past the 30 minutes anyways.

Email: I easily get sucked into other people’s priorities and things that are way more exciting that what I should be doing 😊. If I start a 30-minute timer it forces me to delete lots of emails and quickly get to the ones that demand responses.

Use of Timers

If you want to make a competition out of it, the strategic use of timers can serve as a potent tool in combating overconfidence. By setting specific timeframes for tasks and incorporating short breaks, practitioners can maintain focus and momentum while avoiding the lure of procrastination. Phone Apps like Tabata Timers offer customizable features and motivational cues, empowering individuals to stay on track and maximize efficiency.

Harnessing Confidence to Harness Happiness

I love how the overconfidence effect challenges our notions of judgment and capability. By recognizing its presence and implementing strategic measures, speech pathologists can harness the power of confidence for enhanced productivity and effectiveness, rather than feeling badly because we are behind or didn’t get something done.

We have enough work to do as it is! Do we need to be beating ourselves up because we are poor at predicting how much time it will take? The confidence effect says that you, and 79% of all people polled would benefit from avoiding the allure of estimates and instead make a steadfast commitment to continuous improvement.

7 Types of Bias and How They Affect Speech Language Pathology

This is one of eight essays we wrote on bias, based on the work of Daniel Kahneman and the research we put together for the ASHA CEU course: How Ethics and Biases Shape Our Decisions: A Fun Look at Research on Heuristics. Start with the inspirational article on Daniel Kahneman and then work your way through seven ways our hidden biases can unknowingly influence our thinking.

Overview: Celebrating Daniel Kahneman (3/5/1934 – 3/27/2024) and His Enormous Impact on Bias and Our Work

  1. Navigating Fairness Bias in Our Role as SLPs
  2. Framing Effect: Shaping Perspectives with Words
  3. Understanding Availability Bias: Challenging Perceptions During Evaluations
  4. Deciphering the Conjunction Fallacy – Overlap or Isolation of Disorders?
  5. The Overconfidence Effect – Misperceptions About Amount of SLP Work and How Long it Takes
  6. Embracing Loss Aversion: Balancing Risk and Reward in Speech Pathology
  7. Freedom from the Anchoring Effect: When Numbers Work Against Us

How Ethics and Biases Shape Our Decisions: A Fun Look at Research on Heuristics

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