Error and Bias in Comparative Judgment: On Being Both Better and Worse than We Think We are

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 92, No. 6, pp. 972-989, 2007

IACM 2006 Meetings Paper

64 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2005

See all articles by Deborah A. Small

Deborah A. Small

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department; Carnegie Mellon University

Don A. Moore

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Abstract

People believe that they are better than others on easy tasks and worse than others on difficult tasks. Previous attempts to explain these better-than-average and worse-than-average effects have invoked bias and motivation as causes. This paper develops a more parsimonious account, the differential information explanation, which assumes only that people typically have better information about themselves than they do about others. When one's own performance is exceptional (either good or bad), it is often reasonable to assume others' will be less so. Consequently, people estimate the performance of others as less extreme (more regressive) than their own. The result is that people believe they are above average on easy tasks and below average on difficult tasks. These effects are exacerbated when people have accurate information about their performances, increasing the natural discrepancy between knowledge of self and others. The effects are attenuated when people obtain accurate information about the performances of others.

Keywords: Focalism, egocentrism, social comparison, overconfidence

JEL Classification: C91, D84

Suggested Citation

Small, Deborah A. and Moore, Don A., Error and Bias in Comparative Judgment: On Being Both Better and Worse than We Think We are. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 92, No. 6, pp. 972-989, 2007, IACM 2006 Meetings Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=853465 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.853465

Deborah A. Small

University of Pennsylvania - Marketing Department ( email )

700 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6340
United States

Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Don A. Moore (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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