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Reactions to “Picture Imperfect”

After reviewing much of the literature and research available regarding the accuracy of self-image, David Dunning, Chip Heath, and Jerry Suls conclude that as humans, our views of our own performance and our own skills and knowledge is largely inaccurate, and the views of others are a more reliable interpretation of what our strengths really are. This phenomenon is also surprisingly widespread, as it affects almost everyone.

In addition, people are apt to overpredict desirable events, meaning they estimate finishing projects in unrealistic time frames and assume that they will act in certain desirable ways when confronted with certain situations, even though there is no way of knowing that. There are several psychological factors that play a part in this inflated self-judgment humans seem to be experiencing, but two primary considerations are addressed.

First, that people simply do not have enough information to make the kind of self-assessments and comparisons between themselves and others that they do. Some things are just too difficult to define to reliably gauge during self-assessment. Second, people tend to ignore or forget what relevant information they do have, or they choose to skew the information and use their own “story. ” In short, they are not engaged in the reality of what is going on around them, or in the reality of their own actions and choices.

Exploring why this occurs and how people can begin to practice realistic and informed self-assessments, and utilize their judgment rather than their wishful thinking in predicting desirable events is important because individuals base a majority of their decisions, even decisions that could hold severely negative consequences if made poorly – like health decisions, on inaccurate ideas about their own knowledge, ability, or character, and with incomplete or misleading information about the reality of the situation.

This often leads to negative consequences, some of which could certainly have been avoided. Reactions & Opinions The research reviewed in the article seems to be well-founded, and logically supports the authors’ position, leading me to believe the assertion that many of us do have unrealistic or inaccurate ideas about ourselves, and about how events will turn out.

I must admit that the actual statistics surprised me, as I would have fallen into the very manner of thinking that the article discusses, and underestimated the rate at which we overestimate our abilities, knowledge, and character. However, the notion that many of us overpredict good things is unarguable, and it occurs to me that this is a method of maintaining an unrealistically positive image of ourselves – more so to others, than to ourselves.

For example, one of the surveys mentioned in the article said that adults were much more likely to predict that they would want a healthy snack instead of junk food in the afternoon, yet when the time ultimately came, they chose junk food – but in our increasingly health-conscious society, who is going to admit they’d rather have a bag of chips than an apple? I do not think many of the survey participants actually believed they would want that healthy snack, but said so in order to protect themselves psychologically and emotionally from criticism or ridicule, or to get the “right” answer on the survey.

I do believe, however, that people tend to overrate their abilities, as we subconsciously gravitate toward comparing ourselves with people we believe are less capable, competent, or skilled as we are. Even when we compare ourselves to those who we believe are better at something than we may be, we justify and pacify our egos by saying, “Well, I may not be perfect like such-a-one, but at least I’m not as bad as so-and-so. ” Few people would deny that they have indulged in this kind of reasoning at one point or another. Applications

Although this article focuses more on the actual occurrences of this phenomenon than solutions to it, a few techniques and applications for moving into more realistic and informed self-assessment and event prediction are mentioned that do have merit. Rather than trying to baldly present individuals with negative information, it is important to bolster their sense of self-worth first. A very basic example is that of a teacher and student – with a student who is doing poorly in a certain subject, say math, but very well in English.

If the teacher comes right out and says, “You’re math skills are terrible, and you’ll fail the class without tutoring,” the student will most likely become defensive in his or her reply, saying something like, “I’m good at math, I just don’t like…(textbook, teacher, etc. ). ” Alternatively, if the teacher were to offer some praise to the child for one of his or her strengths, like doing well in English, before approaching the subject of the student’s poor math skills, the student is more likely to be receptive to what the teacher is trying to say and more willing to accept a tutor’s help to improve their math skills.

I believe this is a basic defense mechanism that most of us practice, and could be part of the reason we are so willing to forget or ignore the information that we have about others when comparing ourselves to them. If we simply choose not to acknowledge that so-and-so is actually better at such-and-such, we don’t have to feel inferior, or even work to improve ourselves. In short, it is simply easier and more comfortable to feel as though we are more skilled or talented, smarter, or have a better character than to actually engage in change.

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