Science

Study: Math skills may depend on this one personality trait

The ability to compute numbers and make sense of problems will only take you so far.

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When it comes to math, the key to success might not only be rooted in your ability to compute. It could all come down to how confident you are, according to research published in September 2019.

Math skills are linked to financial advantages and even better health, but a lack of confidence in one’s abilities may cancel out those benefits, researchers found.

Inverse is counting down the 25 biggest stories about human potential of 2019. This is #18.*

The researchers studied how math skills — and math confidence — affected both a person’s finances and the progression of lupus.

Ellen Peters, lead author and professor at the University of Oregon, took to Twitter to explain the findings of the two studies.

“In both studies, participants who had high numeric ability and high numeric confidence did the best,” Peters said. “They reported more positive financial outcomes and they were the least likely to need additional treatment for highly active disease.”

Having the self-determination without the skills to back it up led to trouble, she said.

“Those who had similarly high confidence but low ability (the overconfident) had the worst outcomes in both personal finances and health,” Peters said.

Confidence is the key

The first study on financial success surveyed 4,572 people. Higher reported math abilities were associated with having less debt and no payday loans.

People who were just as skilled but who were less confident in their ability didn’t see the same benefits. Neither did those with the low math skills and high confidence.

People who doubt their own math skills might avoid opportunities to use their skills, like being the financial planner for their household, the researchers suggest. That may lead to poor financial planning — and therefore worse outcomes.

The researchers then looked at 91 people with systematic lupus erythematosus. They were tested on their math skills and confidence, while the researchers tracked their health using medical records.

They found no clear connection between a person’s math skills and disease progression. But they conclude that being good with numbers can make a difference for people with a chronic autoimmune disease.

“Some interventions and changes require objective numeracy,” the researchers said.

As 2019 draws to a close, Inverse is revisiting 25 striking lessons for humans to help maximize our potential. This is #18. Some are awe-inspiring, some offer practical tips, and some give a glimpse of the future. Read the original article here.

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