Thinking Too Highly of Ourselves?

Posted by on Aug 9, 2010

If we’re going to think faithfully, that probably means we need to think accurately about ourselves. Unfortunately, most of us do not. Professor Daniel Gilbert backs up this assumption with data. In his highly readable and rather entertaining book, Stumbling on Happiness, he writes:

“…if you are like most people, then like most people, you don’t know you’re like most people. Science has given us a lot of facts about the average person, and one of the most reliable of these facts is that the average person doesn’t see herself as average. Most students see themselves as more intelligent than the average student, most business managers see themselves as more competent than the average business manager, and most football players see themselves as having better ‘football sense’ than their teammates. Ninety percent of motorists consider themselves to be safer-than-average drivers, and 94 percent of college professors consider themselves  to be better-than-average teachers. Ironically, the bias toward seeing ourselves as better than average causes us to see ourselves as less biased than average too. As one research team concluded, ‘Most of us appear to believe that we are more athletic, intelligent, organized, ethical, logical, interesting, fair-minded, and healthy – not to mention more attractive -than the average person.” (p. 252).

If Gilbert is right, and, on average, I would say he is, we would all do well to examine our views of ourself, probe a little deeper, and ask for greater insight about what we’re really like.

(By the way, Gilbert’s book is an excellent example of scholarly research presented to and applied to a popular audience. His many insights would be worth much discussion).

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