Not so Above Average After All: When People Believe They are Worse than Average and its Implications for Theories of Bias in Social Comparison
55 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2005
Recent research calls into question the generally accepted conclusion that people believe themselves to be above average on desirable behaviors and abilities. This paper reviews the new theories that have been proposed to explain the fact that better-than-average effects are isolated to common behaviors and abilities, and that people believe themselves to be below average with respect to rare behaviors and uncommon abilities. These new theories are then used to revisit prior findings of better-than-average effects. When viewed in light of recent work, the evidence suggests that prior findings overstated the degree to which people engage in self-enhancement by believing that they are better than others when in fact they are not. Prior studies have often confounded desirability with commonness and have used subjective measures of comparative judgment that capitalize on people's tendency to conflate relative with absolute self-evaluation.
Keywords: Comparative judgment, overconfidence, better-than-average, social comparison, positive illusions
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation