The better-than-average effect

  • Alicke M
  • Govorun O
  • 87

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Abstract

The better-than-average effect is a particular type of social comparison, one in which people compare their characteristics or behaviors against a norm or standard, which is usually the average standing of their peers on the characteristic. In this regard, the better-than-average effect falls outside the mainstream of traditional social comparison theory. Following Festinger (1954), social comparison theorists have emphasized the precursors and consequences of comparisons between people. Arguably, however, comparisons with normative standards are at least as prevalent as interpersonal comparisons. The self versus average peer judgments studied in better-than-average effect research are akin to social comparisons such as assessing whether one is meeting a group's moral standards or performance expectations. The better-than-average effect is considered to be one of the most robust of all self-enhancement phenomena (Taylor & Brown, 1988; Sedikides & Gregg, 2003). The better-than-average effect shares this distinction with the optimistic bias--the tendency to overestimate one's chances of good fortune and to underestimate one's risk for misfortune. Whereas the better-than-average effect pertains to self versus average peer comparisons on behavior and trait dimensions, the optimistic bias involves comparisons about life events such as winning the lottery or getting divorced. Although we concentrate on the better-than-average effect in this chapter, many of the issues underlying better-than-average judgments apply as well to relative risk assessments. Connections and distinctions between these two research areas will be drawn throughout this chapter. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

Author-supplied keywords

  • *Self Confidence
  • *Self Perception
  • Social Comparison

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Authors

  • Mark D Alicke

  • Olesya Govorun

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