Why Everybody Thinks They’re Above Average – Which Explains Why I’m so Awesome!

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!




2 thoughts on “Why Everybody Thinks They’re Above Average – Which Explains Why I’m so Awesome!

  1. Debbie Harris

    I can’t believe that two days ago Rob and I were hypothesizing on this exact subject – and reached the same conclusion! We totally agree with you, it is simply a question of how you see yourself, which is usually ‘straight on’ in a mirror – any other angle is usually judged as unflattering, although to others who see you from a variety of positions might disagree. Personally I prefer myself from the back!

    ….and another thing. On the subject of bike riding and sore bum bones – are you really serious when you suggest a ‘moderate’ bike ride of 5-10 miles to break us in gently? We managed about 3 miles on Sunday and frankly I thought I had been sawn in two and my legs used as paddles for a canoe on the Thames. I am not sure that padded pants are going to be man enough for the job!

    Reply
    1. Dave Post author

      Glad I’m not completely delusional, but in support of your argument, I think you look good from the back too – ooh err! Not that there’s anything wrong with the front!

      And on that ‘sore’ subject, I have to say that was pathetic – 3 miles? And I thought you went to the gym? Do they only have weights there or something? Ok, I’ll modify my recommendation – do a mile a day and work up from there! Also, get out of the saddle a bit if necessary, particularly on hills – lets the blood circulate!

      Whatever you think, it does get easier!

      Reply

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