Monday, April 8, 2019

Most people are above-average drivers

Spencer Greenberg and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz write in the NY Times:
Do you think you are an above-average driver, as most people do? How do you compare with others as a parent? Are you better than most at dancing? Where do you rank in your capability to save humanity?

Many of you will answer these questions incorrectly. For some of these skills, you will think you are better than you actually are. For others, you will think you are worse.

We have long known that, for particular skills, people tend to rate themselves imperfectly. In a famous study from 1981, researchers asked people to rate their driving ability. More than 90 percent considered themselves above average.

Of course, some people who think they are above-average drivers really are. But the 90 percent statistic shows that many people inflate how they compare with others. By definition, only 50 percent of people can rate above the median. ...

People are indeed overconfident in their ability to drive. (In our sample, people thought they would outperform 66 percent of others in driving.) But people think they are better than 52 percent of others at driving on ice, something that is more difficult and that they do less frequently. And they think they would be better than only 42 percent of others in driving a racing car, something that is really difficult and that most people never try.
I agreed with this, until I talked to people about why they thought that they were good drivers. One woman told me that I was a terrible driver because I was a late merger. I thought that she was a terrible driver because of how many cars passed her on the right.

So it can be quite correct for 90% of drivers to believe that they are above average, according to their own standards.

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