Don’t let life’s illusions fool you into thinking you have nothing to be grateful for, because in fact, the opposite is true!
“Who has a better dress sense? You, your brother, or your best mate?”
You might expect most people would reply, “me.” It will not be surprising to hear humans tend to have irrationally positive opinions about themselves, their choices and their decisions. There is plenty of research to support this view; On average, most people tend to hold beliefs about themselves regarding trustworthiness, intelligence, and even their sense of humour. A recent study even found people believe they use ChatGPT more efficiently and ethically than others!
The other one which will resonate with many, is how everyone believes they are excellent drivers - perhaps men more than women - and this is defined as Illusory superiority1 or the “better than average” effect.
Here’s a deep dive into desire for status a fundamental human motive - one thing you might be surprised to learn, is that people are not universally overconfident in all their abilities wherever they go. Instead, people adjust their overconfidence and factor in the impact of their specific social environment - in order to maximise their status. For example, in individualistic cultures like the USA, people overestimate their ability to lead others. In collectivistic cultures like Asia, people overestimate their ability to listen.
In other words, we even think we are better than ourselves. Funny enough, I have seen this play out in watch collecting too. The same people will emphasise a different one of their own traits depending on the audience. If they attend a local Redbar, they might be more inclined to adopt a “we hate flippers” mentality and describe how aligned they are with this view. Later, at some affluent collectors’ dinner, they will happily discuss their watches as “curated investments” which, strictly speaking is just bourgeois flipper culture… Just with larger working capital and longer holding periods.
One ingenious study asked participants how often they helped other people; then a while later, the researchers showed these people their own scores, but told them there were scores of “their average peer”. Not knowing these were their own scores, when they were asked to rate themselves again, they rated themselves higher than the average. In other words, they claimed to be better than themselves. 😂
Another thing people do, is overestimate the influence which mass media has on others while underestimating the influence which mass media has on us. This tends to increase general support for censorship, because we think other people are sheeple who can’t handle certain information (or “misinformation”) - but we also think of ourselves as being independent thinkers who are more than able to critically evaluate all the information we come upon.
Unsurprisingly, everyone believes they are less susceptible to social biases than the average person. This recent study makes the point with two main findings in relation to people’s beliefs versus others: 1) Others are more likely to make decisions based on preconceived notions and preexisting beliefs, and 2) Others are less willing to update their views in light of new information. The researchers concluded:
“The more strongly people believed that biases widely existed, the more inclined they were to ascribe biases to others but not themselves.”
But… We don’t think we’re perfect.
The one aspect of life where people often believe they fall short is their social lives.