Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 7-22

First online:

The “Better Than Myself Effect”

  • Mark D. AlickeAffiliated withOhio University
  • , Debbie S. VredenburgAffiliated withOhio University
  • , Matthew HiattAffiliated withOhio University
  • , Olesya GovorunAffiliated withOhio University

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Participants in three studies were asked to estimate the percentage of times they exhibited polar ends of a trait dimension (e.g., behaved cooperatively or uncooperatively) when the opportunity to display that trait arose, and then to evaluate their standing on the trait based on their behavioral estimates. Approximately 6 weeks later, participants were provided with behavior estimates that purportedly represented the average estimates of their peers and asked to evaluate the average person's standing on the trait dimension. The “better than myself effect” is reflected in the finding that people consistently evaluate themselves more favorably than others, even when the behavioral estimates on which they base their ratings of the average person are the identical estimates they provided for themselves. Study 1 demonstrated the basic “better than myself effect,” and Study 2 showed that participants did not alter their behavior estimates when they learned that the average person's estimates were the same as their own. Study 3 demonstrated the “better than myself” effect in comparisons with a randomly selected peer rather than the average peer. A fourth study, using a different methodology, showed that people who wrote behavior descriptions to represent their standing on a trait dimension, and then read similar trait descriptions from a randomly selected peer, also continued to evaluate themselves more favorably than others, despite basing these evaluations on behavior descriptions that were presumably no more favorable than those provided by others.