On the Illusory Superiority Bias

Second, more generally, we’re unduly negative when assessing others. That is, we suffer from an ‘illusory superiority bias’: we tend to think that we’re better than the average person when considering positive traits. Experiment after experiment has shown we rate our relationship happiness, leadership skills, IQ and popularity higher than those of our peers. Eight in ten of us deem our driving ability to be better than the average. To see how pervasive the illusory superiority bias is, we took a large, representative sample of the population in one of our surveys and asked half of the people what their chances were of being involved in a road accident, as either a road user of pedestrian, in the coming year, and asked the other half what the other’ chances were. There was a big difference. 40% in the first group picked the lowest probability option, while only 24% in the second group picked that option for others.

Excerpt from: The Perils of Perception by Bobby Duffy