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Illusory superiority

The meaning of «illusory superiority»

In the field of social psychology, illusory superiority is a condition of cognitive bias wherein a person overestimates their own qualities and abilities, in relation to the same qualities and abilities of other people. Illusory superiority is one of many positive illusions, relating to the self, that are evident in the study of intelligence, the effective performance of tasks and tests, and the possession of desirable personal characteristics and personality traits.

The term illusory superiority was first used by the researchers Van Yperen and Buunk, in 1991. The phenomenon is also known as the above-average effect, the superiority bias, the leniency error, the sense of relative superiority, the primus inter pares effect,[1] and the Lake Wobegon effect, named after the fictional town where all the children are above average.[2]

A vast majority of the literature on illusory superiority originates from studies on participants in the United States. However, research that only investigates the effects in one specific population is severely limited as this may not be a true representation of human psychology. More recent research investigating self-esteem in other countries suggests that illusory superiority depends on culture.[3] Some studies indicate that East Asians tend to underestimate their own abilities in order to improve themselves and get along with others.[4][5].mw-parser-output .toclimit-2 .toclevel-1 ul,.mw-parser-output .toclimit-3 .toclevel-2 ul,.mw-parser-output .toclimit-4 .toclevel-3 ul,.mw-parser-output .toclimit-5 .toclevel-4 ul,.mw-parser-output .toclimit-6 .toclevel-5 ul,.mw-parser-output .toclimit-7 .toclevel-6 ul{display:none}

Alicke and Govorun proposed the idea that, rather than individuals consciously reviewing and thinking about their own abilities, behaviors and characteristics and comparing them to those of others, it is likely that people instead have what they describe as an "automatic tendency to assimilate positively-evaluated social objects toward ideal trait conceptions".[6] For example, if an individual evaluated themselves as honest, they would be likely to then exaggerate their characteristic towards their perceived ideal position on a scale of honesty. Importantly, Alicke noted that this ideal position is not always the top of the scale; for example, with honesty, someone who is always brutally honest may be regarded as rude—the ideal is a balance, perceived differently by different individuals.

Another explanation for how the better-than-average effect works is egocentrism. This is the idea that an individual places greater importance and significance on their own abilities, characteristics, and behaviors than those of others. Egocentrism is therefore a less overtly self-serving bias. According to egocentrism, individuals will overestimate themselves in relation to others because they believe that they have an advantage that others do not have, as an individual considering their own performance and another's performance will consider their performance to be better, even when they are in fact equal. Kruger (1999) found support for the egocentrism explanation in his research involving participant ratings of their ability on easy and difficult tasks. It was found that individuals were consistent in their ratings of themselves as above the median in the tasks classified as "easy" and below the median in the tasks classified as "difficult", regardless of their actual ability. In this experiment the better-than-average effect was observed when it was suggested to participants that they would be successful, but also a worse-than-average effect was found when it was suggested that participants would be unsuccessful.[7]

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