The Dunning Kruger Effect and "Better Than Average" Effect

Laura

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I noticed that we didn't have a thread devoted to this topic though there are several threads that mention it and a few that are very close to the topic such as:

https://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php/topic,19024.0.html

https://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php/topic,33028.0.html

https://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php/topic,32026.0.html

Anyway, I came across this today:

[ur=http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24359153l]Behind bars but above the bar: Prisoners consider themselves more prosocial than non-prisoners.[/url]

Sedikides C1, Meek R, Alicke MD, Taylor S.

Abstract

That people evaluate themselves more favourably than their average peer on desirable characteristics - the better-than-average effect (BTAE) - is one of the most frequently cited instances of motivated self-enhancement. It has been argued, however, that the BTAE can be rational when the distribution of characteristics is skewed such that most people lie above the mean. We addressed whether the BTAE is present even among people liable to be objectively below average on such characteristics. Prisoners compared their standing on pro-social characteristics - such as kindness, morality, law abidingness - with non-prisoners. Prisoners exhibited the BTAE on every characteristic except law abidingness, for which they viewed themselves as average. Given that prisoners are unlikely to be objectively above average on pro-social characteristics, the findings push for a motivational interpretation of the BTAE.

© 2013 The British Psychological Society.
So, I poked around a bit and found this:

Prisoners believe they are just as law abiding as non-prisoners

Date:
January 9, 2014
Source:
University of Southampton

The belief that we consider ourselves better than our peers holds true to convicted criminals as well.

Research from the University of Southampton has shown that prisoners believe themselves to have more pro-social characteristics -- such as kindness, morality, self-control, and generosity -- than non-prisoners.

The research also showed that prisoners did not rate themselves as more law abiding than non-prisoners, but they did rate themselves as equal.

The study, published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, specifically looked at the 'better than average effect' (BTAE), according to which people consistently evaluate themselves more favourably than the average peer on most trait characteristics.

Constantine Sedikides, Professor of Social and Personality Psychology and Director of the Centre for Research on Self and Identity at the University of Southampton, comments: "These findings are some of the most compelling demonstrations of self-enhancement. If the prisoners self-enhanced by considering themselves superior to fellow inmates or community members on "macho" traits, such as toughness, I would not be surprised. However, they self-enhanced on pro-social traits, on which they could demonstrably be inferior to others; that is, they were inferior on those traits to community members and were not necessarily superior to other prisoners. They ignored, to a large degree, reality.

"Virtually by definition, people who are incarcerated have shown a lack of respect for their peers and have violated a legal pact: to adhere to the laws of the community. Although non-incarcerated people do this also, it is highly likely that incarcerated people "cheat" their fellow community members more than the non-incarcerated do. To evaluate themselves more favourably than the non-incarcerated on virtually every social characteristic stretches reality to the breaking point."

During the study, 79 prisoners from a prison in south England filled out a questionnaire, which asked them to rate themselves in comparison to the average prisoner and the average member of the community on nine traits. These were: moral, kind to others, trustworthy, honesty, dependable, compassionate, generous, self-controlled, and law abiding.

Participants rated themselves as superior to the average prisoner on all traits. Surprisingly, they rated themselves superior to the average community member on all traits as well, with one exception. Prisoners considered themselves as law-abiding as the average community member.

Professor Sedikides adds: "Prisoners are strongly influenced by the self-enhancement motive (i.e., the desire to see themselves in positive light). It is because of this motive that they believe they are more law-abiding than other prisoners, and they are equally abiding as community members. Both -- especially the latter -- are unlikely.

"The results showcase how potent the self-enhancement motive is. It is very important for people to consider themselves good, valued, and esteemed no matter what objective circumstances might be. For anyone who doubts this, ask them if they think that their children are perfectly average."

Professor Sedikides added that the BTAE could have an impact on a prisoner's common prediction that they are less likely to commit future crimes, when official data indicate that approximately half of them re-offend within a year of release from prison.

"Perhaps a reason for their inaccurate predictions is their overconfidence. Feeling good about themselves relative to others (prisoners or community members) may bias their judgments toward believing that they could stay out of trouble when released from prison," Professor Sedikides adds.

"Prison-based interventions, which rely on efforts to enhance thinking skills, already aim to challenge misconceptions that offenders may have about their offence and the impact their behaviour has had on society. However, prisoners also need to be encouraged to explore the reality of life after release from prison while also being offered support to overcome the individual and societal barriers that can prevent a successful reintegration into the community and the ability to desist from future crime," he adds.
Which led me to look at this:

Understanding the Better Than Average Effect
Motives (Still) Matter

Jonathon D. Brown, Department of Psychology, University of Washington

Abstract

People evaluate themselves more positively than they evaluate most other people. Although this better than average (BTA) effect was originally thought to represent a motivated bias, several cognitively oriented theorists have questioned whether this is the case. In support of a motivational model, the author reports five studies showing that the BTA effect is stronger for important attributes than unimportant ones (all five studies) and that once attribute importance is taken into account, the effect occurs when self-evaluations are compared with a single peer (Study 2) and when self is specified as the referent rather than the target (Study 4). Finally, Study 5 shows that the BTA effect increases in magnitude after participants experience a threat to their feelings of self-worth. Collectively, these findings establish that motivational processes underlie the BTA effect.

And this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority

Illusory superiority is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities, relative to others. This is evident in a variety of areas including intelligence, performance on tasks or tests, and the possession of desirable characteristics or personality traits. It is one of many positive illusions relating to the self, and is a phenomenon studied in social psychology.

Illusory superiority is often referred to as the above average effect. Other terms include superiority bias, leniency error, sense of relative superiority, the primus inter pares effect,[1] and the Lake Wobegon effect (named after Garrison Keillor's fictional town where "all the children are above average"). ...

One of the main effects of illusory superiority in IQ is the Downing effect. This describes the tendency of people with a below average IQ to overestimate their IQ, and of people with an above average IQ to underestimate their IQ. ...

The disparity between actual IQ and perceived IQ has also been noted between genders by British psychologist Adrian Furnham, in whose work there was a suggestion that, on average, men are more likely to overestimate their intelligence by 5 points, while women are more likely to underestimate their IQ by a similar margin....

In Kruger and Dunning's experiments participants were given specific tasks...

Results were divided into four groups depending on actual performance and it was found that all four groups evaluated their performance as above average, meaning that the lowest-scoring group (the bottom 25%) showed a very large illusory superiority bias. The researchers attributed this to the fact that the individuals who were worst at performing the tasks were also worst at recognizing skill in those tasks. ...

Subjects describe themselves in positive terms compared to other people, and this includes describing themselves as less susceptible to bias than other people. This effect is called the bias blind spot and has been demonstrated independently. ...
Which leads to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias which can manifest in one of two ways:

Unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.[1]
Those persons to whom a skill or set of skills come easily may find themselves with weak self-confidence, as they may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. See Impostor syndrome.

David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University conclude, "the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others"....

If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent. […] the skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.
—David Dunning ...

Although the Dunning–Kruger effect was put forward in 1999, Dunning and Kruger have noted similar historical observations from philosophers and scientists, including Confucius ("Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance."),[3] Bertrand Russell ("One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision", see Wikiquote),[13] and Charles Darwin, whom they quoted in their original paper ("ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge").
 

SMM

The Living Force
Results were divided into four groups depending on actual performance and it was found that all four groups evaluated their performance as above average, meaning that the lowest-scoring group (the bottom 25%) showed a very large illusory superiority bias. The researchers attributed this to the fact that the individuals who were worst at performing the tasks were also worst at recognizing skill in those tasks. ...

Subjects describe themselves in positive terms compared to other people, and this includes describing themselves as less susceptible to bias than other people. This effect is called the bias blind spot and has been demonstrated independently. ...
Oddly enough, this BTAE, or pseudo-confidence, made me think of Anna Salter's Predators Among Us book, with regards to spotting predators and feeling safe.

There's this article from Pacific Standard magazine on the subject:

_http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/people-much-trouble-recognizing-incompetence-72523/

Why People Have So Much Trouble Recognizing Their Own Incompetence said:
“When people are incompetent,” wrote the Cornell University psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger in a seminal 1999 paper, “not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.” We are often most confident, in other words, when we are most ignorant.

Here’s what Dunning and Kruger found out in a series of lab tests: If you’re a bad judge of what other people will find funny, you’re more likely to think of yourself as a great comedian; if you perform poorly on tests of basic grammar, you’re more likely to overrate your facility with language. Why? “The skills that engender competence in a particular domain are often the very same skills necessary to evaluate competence in that domain,” the psychologists surmised. And there’s a flip side to Dunning-Kruger as well: People who are genuinely competent tend to sell themselves short, underrating their abilities.

“The best lack all conviction,” wrote the poet W. B. Yeats, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Turns out he wasn’t just describing Europe after World War I. He was describing any given Wednesday. But take heart: With a little negative feedback, people do learn to calibrate their self-assessments. And for most of us—bumbling burglars excepted—that feedback won’t come in the form of several days in the slammer.
Feedback as a yardstick provides a dose of a much needed reality check and reassessment if heeded, yep. Networking works.
 
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