30-Second Psychology: The 50 Most Thought-provoking Psychology Theories, Each Explained in Half a Minute - Christian Jarrett 2011
The Lake Wobegon effect
Ways We Differ
’Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all?’ — the immortal question asked, of course, by the narcissistic Evil Queen from the Snow White fairy tale. Countless psychological studies show that in real life most people have a touch of the Evil Queen’s vanity about them. Across a huge range of measures, from good looks and popularity to driving ability and memory capacity, the typical person believes they are superior to most others. The phenomenon also appears in profession-specific contexts. Stock traders informed about the woeful performance of the average trader continue to believe in their own prognostic powers. Our collective misplaced confidence is thought to explain a number of common human foibles, including seemingly irrational health behaviours, such as smoking (’It gives other people cancer, but I’ll be okay’) and tardiness — just think how many projects end up late and over-budget. Illusory superiority, as it’s known more formally, was nicknamed the Lake Wobegon effect after the fictional town invented by raconteur Garrison Keillor in which ’all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average’.
Across a raft of abilities and qualities the majority of us believe that we’re better than most.
The Lake Wobegon effect has a negative twin known as the ’worse than average’ effect. This is our negatively skewed belief in our inability to succeed relative to others at particularly unusual or difficult challenges, such as juggling or unicycling. Most of us think we’ll be worse than average at such tasks, presumably because we fail to acknowledge just how much other people will struggle too.
WASON’S CONFIRMATION BIAS
FUNDAMENTAL ATTRIBUTION ERROR
You may not be as handsome or beautiful as you think you are, but have you ever tried juggling? You might be surprised at how good you are.