Accurate Self-Perceptions Considered Harmful

3 Sep 2012 /

Consider a survey of nearly one million high school seniors. When asked to judge their ability to get along with others, 100 percent rated themselves as at least average, 60 percent rated themselves in the top 10 percent, and 25 percent considered themselves in the top 1 percent. And when asked about their leadership skills, only 2 percent assessed themselves as below average. Teachers aren’t any more realistic: 94 percent of college professors say they do above-average work.

The human brain is a better lawyer than scientist. A scientific brain would form hypotheses, test them against the evidence and reject the ones that don’t pass. The lawyer brain starts with a conclusion that it wants to be true, formulates supporting arguments and discounts evidence to the contrary.

Studies show that people with the most accurate self-perceptions tend to be moderately depressed, suffer from low self-esteem or both. An overly positive self-evaluation, on the other hand, helps our minds defend us against unhappiness and inspires us to become what we think we are.

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