In a nutshell
We have a fundamentally distorted view of who we are. Our ego distorts facts, manufactures impressions and memories, to perceive ourselves in the most positive light. There are two main sub-mechanisms of it: the illusory-superiority and ego-shield
This dynamic is described at length by Daniel Kahneman, Daniel Gilbert, Julia Galef among others. .
Acknowledgement: It’s important for our well-being, psychology, and achieving things in life to partially fall into this bias, to think well of ourself. However, this bias is also one of the strongest cognitive distortions out there and one that causes so much damage in a lot of fields particularly in
Overlapping with other names: motivated reasoning. Related entries:
First, illusory superiority. Our ego distorts facts, manufactures impressions and memories to create the best possible self-image.
- The majority of people think they are above average. In one study, 96 percent of cancer patients claimed to be in better health than the average cancer patient.
- We select positive and filter out negative information about ourselves. In one study researchers showed that if somebody praises a person – they will look for evidence of how competent the source is. If somebody criticizes them – they will look for evidence of how incompetent the source is.
- We evaluate things more positively once they become our own. Consumer evaluate things higher after they bought them.
- We look for positive explanations of things we are already doing. If we are eating ice-cream we will think it’s not as bad as if we weren’t doing it and assessing it for somebody else.
- We asses actions higher, when we realize they were done by us. We will find more mistakes on tests if we think it is done by not us
My-side bias also works as ego-shield, something like immune system for our psychology. When experiences make us feel sufficiently unhappy this system will kick in and we will shift blame or manufacture facts in order to create more positive versions of memories. “Able-bodied people are willing to pay far more to avoid becoming disabled than disabled people are willing to pay to become able-bodied again because able-bodied people underestimate how happy disabled people are.” from
Illusory superiority: The majority of people think they are above the average
96 percent of the cancer patients claimed to be in better health than the average cancer patient
"96 percent of the cancer patients in one study claimed to be in better health than the average cancer patient ... People with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer are particularly likely to compare themselves with those who are in worse shape, which explains why. And if we can’t find people who are doing more poorly than we are, we may go out and create them."
Illusory superiority: Selecting positive, filtering out negative
We select positive and filter out negative information about ourselves.
"In one study, some volunteers were shown evidence indicating that extraverts receive higher salaries and more promotions than introverts do (successful-extravert group) and other volunteers were shown evidence indicating the opposite (successful-introvert group). When the volunteers were asked to recall specific behaviors from their pasts that would help determine whether they were extraverted or introverted, volunteers in the successful-extravert group tended to recall the time when they’d brazenly walked up to a complete stranger and introduced themselves, whereas volunteers in the successful-introvert group tended to recall the time when they saw someone they liked but had been too shy to say hello."
If somebody praises me – I will look for evidence of how competent the source is. If somebody criticizes me – I will look for evidence of how incompetent the source is.
"volunteers in one study were told that they’d scored poorly on an intelligence test and were then given an opportunity to peruse newspaper articles about IQ tests, they spent more time reading articles that questioned the validity of such tests than articles that sanctioned them. When volunteers in another study were given a glowing evaluation by a supervisor, they were more interested in reading background information that praised the supervisor’s competence and acumen than background information that impeached it."
If we can define the definition of the word talent we will define it exactly the way we wished—namely, in terms of some activity at which they just so happened to excel
“For example, why is it that you think of yourself as a talented person? (C’mon, give it up. You know you do.) To answer this question, researchers asked some volunteers (definers) to write down their definition of talented and then to estimate their talent using that definition as a guide. Next, some other volunteers (nondefiners) were given the definitions that the first group had written down and were asked to estimate their own talent using those definitions as a guide. Interestingly, the definers rated themselves as more talented than the nondefiners did. Because definers were given the liberty to define the word talented any way they wished, they defined it exactly the way they wished—namely, in terms of some activity at which they just so happened to excel. ("I think talent usually refers to exceptional artistic achievement like, for example, this painting I just finished,” or “Talent means an ability you’re born with, such as being much stronger than other people. Shall I put you down now?”).
We view things more positively once those things become our own.
"Consumers evaluate kitchen appliances more positively after they buy them, job seekers evaluate jobs more positively after they accept them, and high school students evaluate colleges more positively after they get into them. Racetrack gamblers evaluate their horses more positively when they are leaving the betting window than when they are approaching it, and voters evaluate their candidates more positively when they are exiting the voting booth than when they are entering it."
We look for positive explanations of things we are already doing.
"For example, volunteers in one study were told that they would be eating a delicious but unhealthy ice cream sundae (ice cream eaters), and others were told that they would be eating a bitter but healthful plate of fresh kale (kale eaters). Before actually eating these foods, the researchers asked the volunteers to rate the similarity of a number of foods, including ice cream sundaes, kale, and Spam (which everyone considered both unpalatable and unhealthful). The results showed that ice cream eaters thought that Spam was more like kale than it was like ice cream. Why? Because for some odd reason, ice cream eaters were thinking about food in terms of its taste—and unlike kale and Spam, ice cream tastes delicious. On the other hand, kale eaters thought that Spam was more like ice cream than it was like kale. Why? Because for some odd reason, kale eaters were thinking about food in terms of its healthfulness—and unlike kale, ice cream and Spam are unhealthful."
"But if we were preparing to eat one of them, our brains would automatically exploit the ambiguity of that food’s identity and allow us to think of it in a way that pleased us (delicious dessert or nutritious veggie) rather than a way that did not (fattening dessert or bitter veggie). As soon as our potential experience becomes our actual experience—as soon as we have a stake in its goodness—our brains get busy looking for ways to think about the experience that will allow us to appreciate it. Because experiences are inherently ambiguous, finding a “positive view” of an experience is often as simple as finding the “below-you view” of a Necker cube, and research shows that most people do this well and often."
"In Voltaire’s classic novel Candide, Dr. Pangloss is a teacher of “metaphysico-theologo-cosmolo-nigology” who believes he lives in the best of all possible worlds. “It is clear,” he said, “that things cannot be other than the way they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. For instance, noses were made to support spectacles, hence we wear spectacles. Legs, as anyone can see, were made for breeches, and so we wear breeches. Stones were made to be shaped into castles; thus My Lord has a fine castle because the greatest baron in the province ought to have the finest house. And because pigs were made to be eaten, we eat pork all year round. So those who say that everything is well are speaking foolishly; they should say that everything is best.” The research I’ve described so far seems to suggest that human beings are hopelessly Panglossian; there are more ways to think about experience than there are experiences to think about, and human beings are unusually inventive when it comes to finding the best of all possible ways. And yet, if this is true, then why aren’t we all walking around with wide eyes and loopy grins, thanking God for the wonder of hemorrhoids and the miracle of in-laws? Because the mind may be gullible, but it ain’t no patsy. The world is this way, we wish the world were that way, and our experience of the world—how we see it, remember it, and imagine it—is a mixture of stark reality and comforting illusion. We can’t spare either. If we were to experience the world exactly as it is, we’d be too depressed to get out of bed in the morning, but if we were to experience the world exactly as we want it to be, we’d be too deluded to find our slippers. We may see the world through rose-colored glasses, but rose-colored glasses are neither opaque nor clear. They can’t be opaque because we need to see the world clearly enough to participate in it—to pilot helicopters, harvest corn, diaper babies, and all the other stuff that smart mammals need to do in order to survive and thrive. But they can’t be clear because we need their rosy tint to motivate us to design the helicopters (“I’m sure this thing will fly”), plant the corn (“This year will be a banner crop”), and tolerate the babies (“What a bundle of joy!”).
Analogously, when we face the pain of rejection, loss, misfortune, and failure, the psychological immune system must not defend us too well (“I’m perfect and everyone is against me”) and must not fail to defend us well enough (“I’m a loser and I ought to be dead”). A healthy psychological immune system strikes a balance that allows us to feel good enough to cope with our situation but bad enough to do something about it (“Yeah, that was a lousy performance and I feel crummy about it, but I’ve got enough confidence to give it a second shot”). We need to be defended—not defenseless or defensive—and thus our minds naturally look for the best view of things while simultaneously insisting that those views stick reasonably closely to the facts. That’s why people seek opportunities to think about themselves in positive ways but routinely reject opportunities to think about themselves in unrealistically positive ways. For example, college students request new dorm assignments when their current roommates do not think well of them, but they also request new dorm assignments when their current roommates think too well of them.29 No one likes to feel that they are being duped, even when the duping is a pleasure. In order to maintain the delicate balance between reality and illusion, we seek positive views of our experience, but we only allow ourselves to embrace those views when they seem credible. So what makes a view seem credible?"
Illusory superiority: If it's done by me it's done better
Should this be the same group as the confirmation bias one?
Participants were asked to answer a series of simple reasoning problems. They were then asked to explain their responses and were given a chance to modify them if they identified mistakes. The majority were satisfied with their original choices; fewer than 15% changed their minds in step two.
In step three, participants were shown one of the same problems, along with their answer and the answer of another participant, who’d come to a different conclusion. Once again, they were given the chance to change their responses. But a trick had been played: the answers presented to them as someone else’s were actually their own, and vice versa. About half the participants realized what was going on. Among the other half, suddenly people became a lot more critical. Nearly 60% (really 30% of the whole group) percent now rejected the responses that they’d earlier been satisfied with.
When subjects were asked to finger-tap a popular tune of their choosing they were hugely overconfident how many people would get it. They estimated that 50% of people would get it whereas in reality 1.33% got it. from 1990 Stanford experiment
It's easy to see it in others and not yourself
Of course, if you’ve ever discussed a football game, a political debate, or the six o’clock newscast with someone from the other side of the aisle, you’ve already discovered that even when people do encounter facts that disconfirm their favored conclusions, they have a knack for ignoring them, forgetting them, or seeing them differently than the rest of us do.
If you read the answer to the question you will overestimate your ability to being able to know the answer to this question if you wouldn’t know it
Consider a study in which volunteers were shown some quiz-show questions and asked to estimate the likelihood that they could answer them correctly. Some volunteers were shown only the questions (the question-only group), while others were shown both the questions and the answers (the question-and-answer group). Volunteers in the question-only group thought the questions were quite difficult, while those in the question-and-answer group—who saw both the questions (“What did Philo T. Farnsworth invent?”) and the answers (“The television set”)—believed that they could have answered the questions easily had they never seen the answers at all. Apparently, once volunteers knew the answers, the questions seemed simple (“Of course it was the television—everyone knows that!”), and the volunteers were no longer able to judge how difficult the questions would seem to someone who did not share their knowledge of the answers.
Read more about it in
Ego Boost extends to people we keep around us, they will just confirm what we feel
we spend countless hours and countless dollars carefully arranging our lives to ensure that we are surrounded by people who like us, and people who are like us. It isn’t surprising, then, that when we turn to the folks we know for advice and opinions, they tend to confirm our favored conclusions—either because they share them or because they don’t want to hurt our feelings by telling us otherwise.35 Should the people in our lives occasionally fail to tell us what we want to hear, we have some clever ways of helping them. For example, studies reveal that people have a penchant for asking questions that are subtly engineered to manipulate the answers they receive.36 A question such as “Am I the best lover you’ve ever had?” is dangerous because it has only one answer that can make us truly happy, but a question such as “What do you like best about my lovemaking?” is brilliant because it has only one answer that can make us truly miserable (or two if you count “It reminds me of Wilt Chamberlain”). Studies show that people intuitively lean toward asking the questions that are most likely to elicit the answers they want to hear. And when they hear those answers, they tend to believe what they’ve nudged others to say, which is why “Tell me you love me” remains such a popular request.37 In short, we derive support for our preferred conclusions by listening to the words that we put in the mouths of people who have already been preselected for their willingness to say what we want to hear.
We pick the evidence based on what we want to believe. 1) If the person is nice and funny we need less evidence to evaluate if the person is intelligent. 2) volunteers gave the test strip plenty of time to prove that they were well but much less time to prove that they were ill.
Volunteers in one study were asked to evaluate the intelligence of another person, and they required considerable evidence before they were willing to conclude that the person was truly smart. But interestingly, they required much more evidence when the person was an unbearable pain in the ass than when the person was funny, kind, and friendly. When we want to believe that someone is smart, then a single letter of recommendation may suffice; but when we don’t want to believe that person is smart, we may demand a thick manila folder full of transcripts, tests, and testimony.
Precisely the same thing happens when we want or don’t want to believe something about ourselves.
For instance, volunteers in one study were invited to take a medical test that would supposedly tell them whether they did or did not have a dangerous enzyme deficiency that would predispose them to pancreatic disorders. The volunteers placed a drop of their saliva on a strip of ordinary paper that the researchers falsely claimed was a medical test strip. Some volunteers (positive-testers) were told that if the strip turned green in ten to sixty seconds, then they had the enzyme deficiency. Other volunteers (negative-testers) were told that if the strip turned green in ten to sixty seconds, then they didn’t have the enzyme deficiency. Although the strip was an ordinary piece of paper and hence never turned green, the negative-testers waited much longer than the positive-testers before deciding that the test was complete. In other words, the volunteers gave the test strip plenty of time to prove that they were well but much less time to prove that they were ill. Apparently it doesn’t take much to convince us that we are smart and healthy, but it takes a whole lotta facts to convince us of the opposite. We ask whether facts allow us to believe our favored conclusions and whether they compel us to believe our disfavored conclusions. Not surprisingly, disfavored conclusions have a much tougher time meeting this more rigorous standard of proof.
Mechanism of My-side bias
Distorted views of reality are made possible by the fact that experiences are ambiguous—that is, they can be credibly viewed in many ways, some of which are more positive than others. To ensure that our views are credible, our brain accepts what our eye sees. To ensure that our views are positive, our eye looks for what our brain wants ... For positive views to be credible, they must be based on facts that we believe we have come upon honestly. We accomplish this by unconsciously cooking the facts and then consciously consuming them.
Ego Boost Examples
If you make a test you will compare to people who scored worse making test and comparing to people who scored worse
For example, volunteers in one study took a test that ostensibly measured their social sensitivity and were then told that they had flubbed the majority of the questions. When these volunteers were then given an opportunity to look over the test results of other people who had performed better or worse than they had, they ignored the tests of the people who had done better and instead spent their time looking over the tests of the people who had done worse. Getting a C– isn’t so bad if one compares oneself exclusively to those who got a D. This tendency to seek information about those who have done more poorly than we have is especially pronounced when the stakes are high.
Friends will not help other friends when the test is described as important intellectual ability
Volunteers in one study took a test and were then given the opportunity to provide hints that would either help or hinder a friend’s performance on the same test. Although volunteers helped their friends when the test was described as a game, they actively hindered their friends when the test was described as an important measure of intellectual ability. Apparently, when our friends do not have the good taste to come in last so that we can enjoy the good taste of coming in first, we give them a friendly push in the appropriate direction. Once we’ve successfully sabotaged their performances and ensured their failure, they become the perfect standard for comparison.
Give the mind the ambiguity and the mind will exploit it to its favor – creating the most favorable opinion of self.
When volunteers in another study were given a glowing evaluation by a supervisor, they were more interested in reading background information that praised the supervisor’s competence and acumen than background information that impeached it. By controlling the sample of information to which they were exposed, these people indirectly controlled the conclusions they would draw.
If it's good to be an extrovert you will see yourself more as an extravert
For example, in one study, some volunteers were shown evidence indicating that extraverts receive higher salaries and more promotions than introverts do (successful-extravert group) and other volunteers were shown evidence indicating the opposite (successful-introvert group). When the volunteers were asked to recall specific behaviors from their pasts that would help determine whether they were extraverted or introverted, volunteers in the successful-extravert group tended to recall the time when they’d brazenly walked up to a complete stranger and introduced themseves, whereas volunteers in the successful-introvert group tended to recall the time when they saw someone they liked but had been too shy to say hello.
Ego shield (psychological immune system)
When experiences make us feel sufficiently unhappy our psychological immune system will kick in and it will shift blame or cook facts in order to create more positive memories
"When people are asked to predict how they’ll feel if they lose a job or a romantic partner if their candidate loses an important election or their team loses an important game, if they flub an interview, flunk an exam, or fail a contest, they consistently overestimate how awful they’ll feel and how long they’ll feel awful. Able-bodied people are willing to pay far more to avoid becoming disabled than disabled people are willing to pay to become able-bodied again because able-bodied people underestimate how happy disabled people are. As one group of researchers noted, “Chronically ill and disabled patients generally rate the value of their lives in a given health state more highly than do hypothetical patients [who are] imagining themselves to be in such states.” Indeed, healthy people imagine that eighty-three states of illness would be “worse than death,” and yet, people who are actually in those states rarely take their own lives."
If you’ve managed to forgive your spouse for some egregious transgression but still find yourself miffed about the dent in the garage door or the trail of dirty socks on the staircase, then you have experienced this paradox.
For example, volunteers in one study were students who were invited to join an extracurricular club whose initiation ritual required that they receive three electric shocks. Some of the volunteers had a truly dreadful experience because the shocks they received were quite severe (severe-initiation group), and others had a slightly unpleasant experience because the shocks they received were relatively mild (mild-initiation group). Although you might expect people to dislike anything associated with physical pain, the volunteers in the severe-initiation group actually liked the club more. Because these volunteers suffered greatly, the intensity of their suffering triggered their defensive systems, which immediately began working to help them achieve a credible and positive view of their experience"
Reasons on why my-side bias come to be
“... reason evolved to perform, which is to prevent us from getting screwed by the other members of our group. Living in small bands of hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were primarily concerned with their social standing, and with making sure that they weren’t the ones risking their lives on the hunt while others loafed around in the cave. There was little advantage in reasoning clearly, while much was to be gained from winning arguments.” From
When we want something to be true, he said, we ask ourselves, “Can I believe this?,” searching for an excuse to accept it. When we don’t want something to be true, we instead ask ourselves, “Must I believe this?,” searching for an excuse to reject it.4
Is it hidden from us. Yes like every bias.