Thursday, January 04, 2007

The above-average American.

Apparently, it's not just Lake Wobegon where the kids are above average. That is, a number of studies have shown that people from Western cultures are consistently likely to assume that they have better than average ability in a given task, even when their measured performance is less than stellar. In these latter cases, people will attribute their underwhelming performance to some extraneous factor besides their actual ability in the task--that test wasn't really a good measure of ability, I had a bad day, I didn't work very hard. Interestingly, members of many non-Western cultures (e.g., Japan, India), show no such tendency, and actually may veer towards self-effacement, even when they have performed quite well. A study by Hazel Markus and Shinobu Kitayama (1991), for instance, found that where Americans guessed that only about 30% of other people would be better than them at a task, Japanese respondents estimated 50% of other people would be better than them. Either Americans are playing out a little bit of a self-serving bias, or they have a really low opinion of their countrymen.

Sorry for the lousy/lack of links on this one, but most of the stuff was password protected.


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