In this post on his blog, Evan Marc Katz asked his readers to rank themselves in four categories: Looks, Personality, Intelligence, and Career. Both Lance and I couldn’t resist commenting, and Lance also blogged an excellent reaction here. It is pretty evident from the comments to his blog as well as the original article on the Freakonomics bulletin here that most people have a tendency to seriously overestimate themselves. EMK hypothesizes,
The good news is that having a combination of self-esteem and self-delusion seems to be exactly what allows us to function. How would we feel if we didn’t believe we’re above average in every single way?
Although that is insightful and seems at least partially true, I also can’t help but feel that there must be a little more to it. In a comment on Lance’s blog about whether you can teach an old dog new tricks, I mention something that I always told my students:
People are inherently lazy. Therefore, to convince them to take action, you must convince them not that your position is morally superior, but that they have more to lose by doing nothing than they do by taking action.