Jailed criminals think they are kinder, more trustworthy and honest than the average member of the public

Posted on February 22, 2014

Many studies have shown that people tend to exaggerate their own positive characteristics and abilities. A popular example is the finding that most drivers think they are a better-than-average driver. This suggests there are many sub-standard drivers cruising our roads in the belief they are unusually gifted at the wheel. Similar findings apply for literally hundreds of traits, all of which supports the idea of a widespread, self-serving "better-than-average effect".

a team led by Constantine Sedikides has surveyed 85 incarcerated offenders at a prison in South East England about their prosocial traits. The inmates were aged 18 to 34 and the majority had been jailed for acts of violence and robbery. There is no information on the participants' gender. The inmates completed questionnaires anonymously and in relative privacy.

Compared with "an average prisoner" the participants rated themselves as more moral, kinder to others, more self-controlled, more law-abiding, more compassionate, more generous, more dependable, more trustworthy, and more honest. Remarkably, they also rated themselves as higher on all these traits than "an average member of the community", with one exception - law-abiding. The prisoners rated themselves as equivalent on this trait relative to an average community member.

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Source material from British Psychological Research


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