How to make confident professional judgements: New research

How to make confident professional judgements: New research

confident professional judgements

Making confident professional judgements: New research on how to develop confident professional judgement and decision-making shows that there is more to it than just experience. There is a world of difference between making confident professional judgements and going out on a wing and a prayer, but how do you develop confident decision-making?


Research just published has been looking into the development of confidence of people making professional judgements.



Confidence has an important role in the making of judgements and decisions in our professional lives. Confidence, in this context, refers to the feeling of having done something correctly or incorrectly. As such it is an important aspect of the subjective experience we have during the decision making process and guides us forwards.


It has previously been found that one of the differentiators between a professional making judgements and a novice is confidence. This confidence enables professionals to take in more information and see inconsistencies, whereas uncertainty tends to focus people on one or two aspects of the process to the exclusion of other information. It also has a tendency to make people miss or cancel out inconsistent or contradictory information (as does over confidence).


confident decision-making


This study is particularly interesting in that it looks at the confidence of people making judgements in stress situations, where this effect is heightened.




The first thing the researchers found was that experienced practitioners and professionals draw on their experience to firstly determine their level of confidence in any situation and secondly to actually make judgements and decisions. Novices and students however rely heavily on their training and models to analyse the situation and draw conclusions.


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The researchers also found that students or novices in a situation who lack the confidence in their decision making ability in that situation are very likely to be hyper-reactive to criticism and feedback, particularly negative feedback during the situation. Not only that, but people without experience in a situation and the apposite confidence are much more likely to make assumptions about other people’s motivations, reasoning and emotional state than a confident professional.  This, the researchers found, may impede the less confident professionals’ ability to attune to the emotional states of the people around them and build collaborative relationships.


Main factor in making confident professional judgements


The researchers’ main finding and conclusion however was that confidence was not primarily down to experience alone. The major underpinning factor in the emergence of confidence in professionals is emotion regulation or more correctly emotional self-regulation, the ability to identify (emotional intelligence or emotional acuity) and change (emotion regulation) their own emotions in any given situation.


People who have lower levels of ability to regulate their emotions or who dysregulate their emotions (bring about the wrong emotion or use the wrong strategy – using drink to regulate the emotions for example) are much more likely to lack confidence or lurch into over-confidence when confronted with a stressful situation. The researchers discovered that people in this condition we often unable to remember or think about the frameworks they had learned, or process much information at all.


making confident judgements


Further they found that this mixture of a lack of confidence, stress and emotion dysregulation usually results in a negative reaction to the situation and an increase in anxiety which exacerbates the problem.




The researchers have two primary recommendations regarding making confident professional judgements:


  1. Using mentors, supervisors and coaches to help develop confidence in judgement making.
  2. Developing emotion regulation through teaching emotion regulation strategies and techniques as a part of the general development of staff.


The researchers conclude that “Such training would thus appear to address the emotional factors interfering with performance and subsequently confidence in performance, providing those with low confidence with an increase in the abilities that appear to benefit high-confidence workers.”


Reference – available to members


How organisations deal with dilemmas and emergencies – Press & Balance


Disclaimer: This is a research review, expert interpretation and briefing. As such it contains other studies, expert comment and practitioner advice. It is not a copy of the original study – which is referenced. The original study should be consulted and referenced in all cases. This research briefing is for informational and educational purposes only. We do not accept any liability for the use to which this review and briefing is put or for it or the research accuracy, reliability or validity. This briefing as an original work in its own right and is copyright © Oxcognita LLC 2024. Any use made of this briefing is entirely at your own risk.

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page