Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

94% of College Professors are above average

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Apr• 11•08

The average person believes that they are above average in almost all respects. This phenomenon is often called the Lake Wobegon effect after Garrison Keillor’s fictitious town in which all people are above average.

A paper by Dunning, Heath and Suls (2004) gives some great examples of Lake Wobegon in action.

Motorcyclists believe they are less likely to cause an accident than is the typical biker (Rutter, Quine, & Albery, 1998). Business leaders believe their company is more likely to succeed than is the average firm in their industry (Cooper, Woo, & Dunkelberg, 1988; Larwood & Whittaker, 1977). People think they are less susceptible to the flu than their contemporaries, and as a result avoid getting flu shots (Larwood, 1978). Of college professors, 94% say they do above-average work (Cross, 1977). People signing up to bungee jump believe they are more likely to avoid injury than the average bungee jumper, although their friends and family do not share this impression (Middleton, Harris, & Surman, 1996). Ironically, people even state that they are more likely than their peers to provide accurate self-assessments that are uncontaminated by bias (Friedrich, 1996; Pronin, Lin, & Ross, 2002).

…Surgical trainees place too much confidence in their diagnoses after looking at X-ray evidence (Oksam, Kingma, & Klasen, 2000). After looking over a client’s case materials, clinical psychologists overestimate the chance that their predictions will prove accurate (Oskamp, 1965).

Despite the prevalence of overconfident self-assessment, I suffer from no such problem. That is of course because I am an above-average blogger.

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  1. Mike says:

    Ha! I am an above-average graduate student. I like the sound of that.

  2. […] the situation, as it’s difficult to get out. Self-deception goes both ways. On the one hand, most professors think they’re better instructors than their colleagues (Lake Wobegon effect) (they’re reading my mind!); on the other hand, 69% of […]

  3. […] day dug up the old line about 74% of managers thinking they were above average. This is only one of a large collection of such factoids, usually (and probably justly) trotted out to illustrate that overconfidence goes hand-in-hand with […]