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Lake Wobegon Effect

 

Explanations > Theories > Lake Wobegon Effect

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

We tend to over-estimate our abilities and achievements, particularly in comparison with other people.

Most importantly, we like to consider ourselves 'above average'. High achievers (or those who consider themselves to be such) think themselves in the top X percent, where X may be 25, 10, 5, 2 or 1, depending on the frame of reference.

This happens largely because we derive our sense of self-worth in contrast with other people. Thus, rather than considering myself 'good', I actually seek to be 'better'.

Lake Wobegon appears in the radio series 'A Prairie Home Companion', by Garrison Keillor, where "all the children are above average".

Research

This effect has been found in many studies, for example Zuckerman and Jost found that most students considered themselves more popular than average.

Example

I am a consultant and am therefore more knowledgeable about most areas than all of my clients. I am also cleverer than most other consultants.

So What?

Using it

Flatter people by recognizing them as above average or deflate them by being honest about how average they are.

Defending

Look in the mirror and know that you are not perfect. Accept this and accept yourself. Beware of acting cleverer than you are and hence appearing stupid to others.

See also

Looking-glass Self, Social Comparison Theory, Self-Monitoring Behavior, Overconfidence Barrier, Below-average effect, Frame of Reference

References

Kruger (1999), Zuckerman and Jost (2001)

 

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