I Must Not Have Been Part of This Research Study

There was an interesting article in today’s Wall Street Journal about jealousy.

The main point of the story was that other people’s plans for the future irritate us much more than experiences they’ve had in the past. At first, this idea might seem strange. Don’t we feel envy for people’s accomplishments and possessions, such as their expensive cars? We do, but the study shows that jealousy stings even more when we think about the good things that lie in their future. In fact, our envious feelings ramp up as someone else’s fortunate occasion gets closer—and plummet once the event is over.

But while that was interesting, what really caught my eye was the following comment, that was just mentioned in passing in the story:

Research shows that most of us think we are better looking, smarter, more competent and of course less biased than other people.

I was not aware of this particular research, and my own experience certainly does not fit with these findings.

I actually think the exact opposite:

  • I think most people are better looking than me; wait let me take that back. I know most people are better looking than me
  • I think most people are smarter than me; sure, I know the difference between a debit and a credit. But I don’t know the first thing about cars, house repairs, or how to draw a picture so it doesn’t look like a two-year-old made it.
  • As to competence, see the bullet point above.
  • And in regards to bias, I am pretty quick to judge others. For example, I would consider the people who read my blog every day to be awesome (OK, I’ll admit it, this means my family), while those who don’t read it EVERY.SINGLE. DAY to be lazy, good for nothing bums.

And so while the research did not include me in the survey, there’s a good chance that it included people I know in the research. When they start thinking about being better looking, smarter, or more competent than others, there’s a chance that they were thinking about me, and so it’s no surprise when they answer that they think they are better looking or smarter than others because they are using me a reference point.

Going back to the WSJ story, while the main topic was interesting, I ended up focusing on a relatively minor part of the story. Proof that people are smarter than me.

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