The Worse-Than-Average Effect: When you're better than you think

Posted on March 2, 2017

Research has shown consistently over the years that people often underestimate their ability to perform tasks that are widely perceived to be challenging. Known as the worse-than-average effect, it has been found that we often think too little of our strengths and we are, in fact, better than what we think.

For instance, when we are competent in something, we often assume that others are good at it as well. So, when we are faced with a difficult task that we are competent in, we tend to belittle our own ability to accomplish the task. Such mentality does not only arise when we have a special talent but also when we perceive the task to be particularly challenging. On the other hand, when we perceive a task to be easy, we tend to overestimate our ability to complete it.

One example would be a research by Moore (2007) has shown that “University of Iowa students report believing that they stand only a 6% chance of beating fellow University of Iowa students in a trivia contest featuring questions on the history of Mesopotamia (Windschitl et al., 2003). In contrast, a trivia contest featuring questions on TV sitcoms inspired an average estimated probability of winning of 70%. Naturally, these beliefs are erroneous because the tests will be simple or difficult for everyone. On average, the actual probability of winning must be 50%.”

Such a mentality can be explained by how we tend to place an overbearing focus on our own skills and thus, did not manage to sufficiently take into account the skills of the comparison group. This can also be applied to how we think of ourselves as well. For instance, older people tend to assume that they are less attractive and athletic than other people their own age (Zell & Alicke, 2011).

With all that has been mentioned, it must be realised that we often think too little of ourselves when faced with a complex task or when we have a special talent. In such cases, do always remember, you are better than what you think!

Category(s):Mental Health in Asia

Source material from Psyblog

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