Why Everybody Thinks They’re Above Average via ‘peer-reviewed by my neurons’
One of the better-known psychology factoids is that 80% of people tend to think they are above average (if you don’t know this, you’re clearly in the “below-average” 20%). However, not much attention has been paid the underlying judgment mechanisms that lead people to over-estimate their abilities. A new study explains this tendency by finding evidence for what the researchers call the “better-than-my-average-effect.” Essentially, we evaluate how we really are by looking at our best performances, but when we evaluate others we tend to focus on their average performance.
The point about photographs of oneself is revealing – I know I have some ‘favourite’ photographs of myself (the ones where I look like a God), but I equally know that there are many photographs of me where I look like a dork. Which probably, statistically and without bias, makes me a dork.
Actually, I’ve long since recognised that part of our self perception is about what we are used to seeing. More often than not the only time we see ourselves is in a mirror, and therefore looking ourselves square in the face. Any photographs I see of myself profile I always dislike, not because the profile is necessarily any less attractive, but because I am less used to that appearance of myself. In profile, I think I have a big nose, but square on, I think it is ‘normal’, b therefore I should probably work on the basis that I do in fact have a big nose.
My recent experiment with the beard didn’t work for the same reason – despite the fact I had facial hair of one form or another for 10 years, I’ve become accustomed to not having it, and therefore my own self image is one without facial hair. Having facial hair just looks wrong. When I first grew it, I had never had facial hair before, and but had always been curious to see what it was like, I stuck with it long enough for it to become normal, and then it didn’t look right when I did remove it. I now look back on some of those pictures and wonder what on earth I thought I looked like!
Share thoughts on your own self image – I’m curious!