We’ve all heard the studies showing that the vast majority of us consider ourselves above-average drivers. In the psychology literature, this belief is known as positive illusion. Our brains are positive illusion factories: Only 2 percent of high school seniors believe their leadership skills are below average. A full 25 percent of people believe they’re in the top 1 percent in their ability to get along with others. Ninety-four percent of college professors report doing above average work. People think they’re at lower risk than their peers for heart attacks, cancers, and even food-related illnesses such as salmonella. Most deliciously self-deceptive of all, people say they are more likely than their peers to provide accurate self-assessments.
Positive illusions pose an enormous problem with regard to change. Before people can change, before they can move in a new direction, they’ve got to have their bearings. But positive illusions make it hard for us to orient ourselves – to get a clear picture of where we are and how we’re doing.
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