“It is one of the essential features of such incompetence that the person so afflicted is incapable of knowing that he is incompetent. To have such knowledge would already be to remedy a good portion of the offense.”
~ W. I. Miller (quoted in Kruger & Dunning)
Most people believe that they are above average. Now, I’d be the first to tell you that I’m terrible at math, but even I can see something’s wrong here.
This phenomenon — known by a variety of names, including the “above-average effect”, “superiority bias”, “illusory superiority”, and, my personal favorite, the “Lake Wobegon effect” — is manifested in a variety of areas, including bias, popularity, and driving ability. In short, whatever we’re talking about, odds are we think we’re better than most people at it.
One interesting variation on this theme is the Downing effect: according to a series of studies done by C. L. Downing, people with a below-average IQ tend to overestimate their IQ, while people with an above-average IQ tend to underestimate their IQ. In a similar vein, studies by British psychologist Adrian Furnham suggest that, on average, men are more likely to overestimate their intelligence, while women are more likely to underestimate their IQ. Coincidence? I think not.
More on our inability to tell how smart we are after the jump.