“Just believing in self- or collective-greatness will not materialize into competitive performance… For us, it will be impractical and blindfolding to insist on national self-flattering. But, if there is anything we do better than anybody else is to blindfold ourselves.”
By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C.
Overconfident? Self enhanced? Smarter than average? Yes.
Such widespread public opinions about relative intelligence were first reported in the United States in 1965. Yet, as a team of researchers puts it in a replication study just published in the academic journal Public Library of Science (PLoS), “American’s self-flattering beliefs about intelligence are alive and well several decades after their discovery.”
When asked to assess the statement “I am more intelligent than the average person,” via phone or online polling, 65 percent of responders either agreed or strongly agreed with the premise.
The pollsters, Patrick Heck, Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris, affiliated with the Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute in Pennsylvania, the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois-Champaign, and the Institute for Advance Study in Toulouse-France, respectively, interviewed 2,800 adults in the 50 states of the country, and analyzed their responses as per sex, age, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment.
More men (about 70 percent) than women (about 60 percent) considered themselves smarter than average, a trend comparable to the adults younger than 44 years of age (also 70 percent were confident in their intellect) versus those older than 44 years (60 percent). In terms of race/ethnicity, about 65 percent of both “whites” and “non-whites” agreed with the notion “I am more intelligent than average,” with the peculiar feature that up to 71 percent of “non-whites,” who responded to the survey online (rather than by phone and were likely skillful computer users), mostly or strongly concurred with the statement.
Interestingly, responders with college or post-graduate degrees underestimated themselves, with 70+ percent thinking they were above average intelligence; note that the pollsters expected 80+ percent of the highly educated to think that way according to their usual cohort performance in IQ-tests. Those with “no college” or “some college” education, by contrast, surpassed the expected 47 percent confidence score on self-brain-ranking, with 55-62 percent of them believing (themselves) to be smarter than the mean.
“…both the naturally talented as much as the taught-to-reason-average-individual can perform better in ‘the real world’ if provided with educational tools to excel…”
Overconfidence is not necessarily bad. It can actually boost performance, encourage bold, creative thinking and help persist on innovative projects even though they might have been initially dismissed by others (for an evolutionary take see Nature). The “smarter than average effect,” as it is known among psychology scholars, is apparently ubiquitous across cultures (particularly in the West; but see an alternative perspective here), although the trends in the United States are not directly applicable elsewhere.
There is no doubt that education brings self confidence to people, but there is also innate differential talent among individuals, which can be developed even further with proper mentoring and schooling. Take youth math ability, for example, the most reliable predictor of later-in-life career success (go to scientific article): all significant aspects of modern societal development, which are bound to science and technology, depend on quantitative, rational thinking to solving problems and innovating progress. And both the naturally talented as much as the taught-to-reason-average-individual can perform better in “the real world” if provided with educational tools to excel. Thus, “above average performance” — in respect to the past — can be continuously built in anyone and, by doing so, raise the bar for all.
Paradoxically, at some point, perhaps at a crucial one in history (now!), just believing in self- or collective-greatness (as celebrities often claim “as long as you believe, anything is possible,” which is always followed by tens of thousands of “likes” and “shares” in social media) will not materialize into competitive performance; at least not when so many countries out there are committed to, via meaningful actions in elementary-, high-school- or higher-education, lead the future.
For us, it will be impractical and blindfolding to insist on national self-flattering. But, if there is anything we do better than anybody else is to blindfold ourselves. — EvoLiteracy © 2018.
This op-piece appeared in The Standard Times (South Coast Today), see HERE.