People believe that they are prototypically good or bad

Michael M. Roy, Elizabethtown College
Michael J. Liersch, Leonard N. Stern School of Business
Stephen Broomell, Carnegie Mellon University


People have been shown to view their beliefs as being prototypical (modal) but their abilities as (falsely) unique (above or below average). It is possible that these two viewpoints - self as prototypical and self as unique - can be reconciled. If the distribution of ability for a given skill is skewed such that many others have high (low) ability and few others have low (high) ability, it is possible that a majority of peoples' self-assessments can be above (below) average. Participants in 5 studies demonstrated an understanding that various skills have skewed ability distributions and their self-assessments were related to distribution shape: high when negatively skewed and low when positively skewed. Further, participants tended to place themselves near the mode of their perceived skill distribution. Participants were most likely to think that they were good at skills for which they thought that most others were also good. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.