Nums: 94% of profs rate themselves above average … but, don’t we all?

According to

Since psychological studies first began, people have given themselves top marks for most positive traits.

While most people do well at assessing others, they are wildly positive about their own abilities.


The phenomenon is known as illusory superiority.


Illusory superiority is everywhere

  • In studies, most people overestimate their IQ. For instance, in a classic 1977 study, 94 percent of professors rated themselves above their peer group average.
  • In another study, 32 percent of the employees of a software company said they performed in the top 5%.
  • Drivers consistently rate themselves as better than average — even when a test of their hazard perception reveals them to be below par.

Ironically, the most incompetent are also the most likely to overestimate their skills, while the ace performers are more likely to underrate themselves.

Psychologists say the illusory superiority happens for several reasons:

  • people don’t usually get honest feedback from others (who are too polite to say what they really think)
  • incompetent people lack the skills to assess their abilities accurately
  • most positive traits — like being a good driver — are so vaguely defined that there’s plenty of wiggle room
  • self-delusions can actually protect people’s mental health serving as a protective mechanism that shields self-esteem

The remedy for illusory superiority ?

Since people are generally more accurate in assessing other people (than assessing themselves), get — and take to heart — constructive criticism from others.

Yeah, right.

Source: Why We’re All Above Average

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One Response to “Nums: 94% of profs rate themselves above average … but, don’t we all?”

  1. John Milnes Baker Says:

    “Illusory superiority” – Good term.
    It reminds me of the off-repeated myth that “97%” ( give or take a few percentage points) “of scientist believe in man-made global warming” (or “climate change” – the favored term now since there hasn’t been any warming for some 18 years.)

    Here’s just one skeptic’s comment:
    Klaus-Martin Schulte’s paper makes much of the fact that 48% of the papers they surveyed are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject anthropogenic global warming. The fact that so many studies on climate change don’t bother to endorse the consensus position is significant because scientists have largely moved from what’s causing global warming onto discussing details of the problem (eg – how fast, how soon, impacts, etc).

    Less than half of published scientists endorse global warming.
    Klaus-Martin Schulte examined all papers published from 2004 to February 2007. Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. While only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. Only a single one makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results. (Source: DailyTech)

    It’s like saying “97% of those surveyed who endorse a particular theory agree with each other.” Case closed – end of discussion”?
    – I don’t think so.

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