Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lousy Self-Evaluators

In the Heath brothers' new book, Switch, they describe how individuals are afflicted by positive illusion. In their words, we are lousy self-evaluators. As a result, we may not be ready to change, because we are often delusional about our own current strengths and weaknesses.

The authors describe a startling experiment by psychologists Peter Borkenau and Anette Liebler. They called it the Fake Weatherman study. The scholars brought a fake weatherman into a room full of people, and that person gave a 90 second weather report. The folks in the room then had to guess the weather reporter's IQ. They also asked the fake weatherman to guess his own IQ. What did they find? Amazingly, the observers offered far more accurate predictions than the weathermen, even though they knew nothing else about these complete strangers!

The inaccuracy of the weathermen's self-evaluations demonstrates the power of positive illusion. To make change happen, we have to deal with the fact that people often maintain a very rosy assessment of their own capabilities.

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