Researchers embarked on a novel study intent on measuring the ability to play the expert without being one. Researchers asked study participants to assess their knowledge of 16 math topics on a five-point scale ranging from “never heard of it” to “know it well, understand the concept.” Crucially, three of those topics were complete fabrications. Those who said they were knowledgeable about the fictitious topics were categorized as BS-ers.
According to the data, men are much more likely than women to master the art of hyperbole, as are the wealthy relative to the poor or middle class. North Americans, meanwhile, tend to slip into this behavior more readily than English speakers in other countries, with Canada having the largest proportion of BS-ers.
The study revealed boys across all nine countries were significantly more likely than girls to pretend expertise. There’s also a significant class-based difference, with those from the wealthiest households showing a greater proclivity toward overstatement than those from the poorest.
Young people in Canada & the United States are the most likely to over-sell themselves overall. In Europe, the trait is less widespread but more confined to males and the wealthy. That may result in less pressure on women and the non-rich to enhance their social standing through pretense.
The study also found the individuals most likely to claim to be math whizzes are also the most likely to claim expertise in subject areas that don’t exist. That finding suggests that people who are particularly boastful of their abilities should be treated with some skepticism.