Good With Bad Traits

Here’s something odd to ponder: we generally think we are better than average, but tend to think we have particular personality traits that are less socially desirable. Two from the latest JPSP:

The tendency for people to evaluate themselves more favorably than an average-peer—the better-than-average effect (BTAE)—is among the most well-documented effects in the social-psychological literature. The BTAE has been demonstrated in many populations with various methodologies. … For dimensions on which the self is positively evaluated, enhancement motives restrict the extent to which average-peer assimilation occurs. But for dimensions on which the self is negatively evaluated, enhancement motives amplify average-peer assimilation. (more)

Consensus studies from 4 cultures—in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, and Germany—as well as secondary analyses … from 29 cultures suggest that there is a cross-culturally replicable pattern of difference between internal and external perspectives for the Big Five personality traits. People see themselves as more neurotic and open to experience compared to how they are seen by other people. External observers generally hold a higher opinion of an individual’s conscientiousness than he or she does about him- or herself. As a rule, people think that they have more positive emotions and excitement seeking but much less assertiveness than it seems from the vantage point of an external observer. … A relatively strong negative correlation (r = −.53) between the average self-minus-observer profile and social desirability ratings suggests that people in most studied cultures view themselves less favorably than they are perceived by others (more)

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  • Rebecca Burlingame

    I agree. I’m no dummy but I can open my mouth and send people running the other way.

  • Ray

    So it seems the average person thinks their self above average, but doesn’t think his or her peers appreciate or realize the degree of their above “average-ness.”

  • Egalitarianism with respect to morally relevant traits?

    But why is openness to experience a bad trait?

  • Rebecca Burlingame

    Sark, openness to experience here is meant in a good way, it is what we perceive of ourselves (positively) along with the (uncertain) aspect of our ability to relate with others confidently.

  • In a logical sense, we, as the units of measurement of a population known as persons (like electrons are units of measurement of electricity) each one of us constitutes an equal portion of a measured demographic and are therefore equally average.

    Realistically though, since so much stock is put into the necessity of confidence and confidence is essentially only a self-appointed attitude which suits the charlatan as much if not more than a sincere person, the ingrained drive to compete often results in a person deluding themselves into believing that they are superior. Something the sincere person gets swept up into so as not to give an edge to the charlatan, inevitably the results of which are self defeating. The “con” is the charlatan’s game.

    Then of course since we cherry pick the things we consider to be important to be good at, low and behold, they are the things we are already good at. A less than logical recursive loop that ultimately stands in the way of self-improvement.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t a weakness of the sample that’s it’s primary focus was Western or Westernised cultures?