The illusory superiority bias is a fairly well known part of life, and highlights just how bad we often are at judging our own abilities, with it surprisingly common for us to over-estimate just how good we are at something.
Are we just as bad at judging our own characters? When we think we have a pretty good fix on who we are as people, it’s known as having high self-concept clarity.
A recent study set out to explore these individuals to try and find out just what it is about them that affords them such confidence.
The study finds that this clarity of self awareness is often rather fragile, and indeed is often fractured when they are questioned about their self-image.
Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire detailing their level of confidence in their self awareness levels. They were then asked to provide ten character traits in answer to the question “Who am I?”.
At the end of this, they were asked to provide either two or eight examples of times in their life when they’d displayed their two most valuable traits, before then revealing how difficult they had found the challenge and their self-esteem levels.
Lo and behold, the illusory superiority bias was shown to apply here too, with those who thought they had the best self awareness actually struggling to recall eight examples of their core traits in action.
This apparent difficulty in recalling their more desirable traits in action gave their self-esteem a subsequent hit, leaving their ego at roughly the same level as participants who believed they were rubbish at self-awareness (who, it transpired, found finding eight examples no harder than finding two).
Thankfully, even the most arcane workplaces are generally getting away from any kind of self-assessment by employees, with many of the more enlightened using regular peer review from colleagues and other stakeholders to hopefully provide a more realistic picture.