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Self-enhancement and Superiority Biases (Hoorens)

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 10 months ago

Notes on Hoorens, V (1993) "Self-enhancement and Superiority Biases in Social Comparison" in European Review of Social Psychology 4, Ed. W. Stroebe and Miles Hewstone, Wiley


1. False Consensus

    Ss making a decision overestimate the proportion or their peers who would decide the same way.


2. False Uniqueness

    Most people think that their opinions and low aptitudes are shared by many other people, but that their real abilities are shared by few other people.


3. Pluralistic Ignorance

    A situation where most members of a group privately reject a group norm, but believe themselves to be in a minority.


4. Illusory Superiority

    Most people report that they possess positive characteristics to a greater extent than the average. Most people report that they possess negative characteristics to a lower extent than the average.


5. Unrealistic Optimism

    Most people report that their chance of a disastrous life event is lower than others' and that their chance of a desirable life event is higher than others'.


6. Sensitive Self

    Ss given hypothetical situation and asked 1) what emotions they would display and what emotions they would feel, and 2) what emotions others would display and feel. They describe the same overt behaviour to themselves as others but attribute more private, felt emotion to themselves.


7. Multifaceted Self

    Ss given a list of characteristics; asked to point out which apply to themselves and which apply to another person. They select more for themselves.

    People believe that they have particularly multifaceted personalities and a particularly rich and intense emotional life.


8. Barnum Effect

    Tendency to accept allegedly person-specific personality descriptions as specific to oneself.

    Shows for positive reports not negative reports.

    Also called "fallacy of personal validation".


9. Self-Other asymmetry in social comparison

    Asked how similar they are to other people (in general), Ss give more negative answers than when asked how similar other people are to them.


These effects pertain to self more than (or as much as) best friend, best friend more than distant friends, friends more than strangers. Thus the egotism isn't personal ego but spreads across a continuum of likedness or perceived similarity.


These biases correlate together well.


Cognitive explanations do not suffice for these biases because they do not account for the particular direction of the biases. Also, they appear arbitrary.


Possible explanations -cognitive

  • Differential Availability and Selective Attention
  • Idiosyncratic Construal of Comparison Dimensions
  • Inadequate use of base-rate information
  • Unrealistic Optimism, Control, Prototypes, and Past Experience
  • False Consensus due to misattributing one's own traits to external factors?
  • "cognitive processes may partly account for how self-related biases come about, it appears that cognitive hypotheses cannot sufficiently explain them." - something to be explained is that the distortions are almost always in a self-flattering direction. If they are mistakes due to cognitive heuristics, we would expect self-negative errors to be produced as well.


Possible explanations -motivational

  • "People may exhibit distortions in the perception of their relative position in order to enhance or to maintain their self-esteem" (self-enhancement) - this is a common theme to the biases
  • "People may relatively underestimate their own risks of experiencing undesirable events in order to reduce their fear and protect their ego from threats associated with facing unwanted outcomes." (self-reassurance) - evidence ambiguous
  • Desire of subjects to impress the experimenter (self-presentation) - no evidence that this is happening: unrealistic optimism is the same in anonymous and public conditions.


Theoretical Unification


All the biases are understandable as manifestations of the drive for self-enhancement (reinforcing a positive view of the self). In some cases this is obvious; in others, subtle.


See also the pages on this site dealing with Optimistic Bias and Superiority Bias.

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