@reiver

Most People Are Delusional

[Our] model of mental health [Taylor & Brown, 1988] maintains that certain positive illusions are highly prevalent in normal thought and predictive of criteria traditionally associated with mental health.

[...]

The point of departure for our 1988 article was the widely accepted belief that accurate perceptions of oneself and the world are essential elements of mental health ( Jahoda, 1953 ; Maslow, 1950 ). [...] [M]ost people exhibit positive illusions in three important domains: (a) They view themselves in unrealistically positive terms; (b) they believe they have greater control over environmental events than is actually the case; and (c) they hold views of the future that are more rosy than base-rate data can justify. [...] [A]ccuracy has [in the past] been regarded as essential to psychological well-being. Yet our review showed that most people do not hold entirely accurate and unbiased perceptions of themselves and the world in which they function. It follows, then, that accuracy is not essential for mental health; otherwise, most people would have to be classified as unhealthy.

[...]

Most healthy adults are positively biased in their self-perceptions.

[...]

[O]ur claim that people hold unrealistically positive views of themselves [...] is not based on evidence that people's self-conceptions are more positive than negative [...]. It is based largely (although not exclusively) on evidence that people consistently regard themselves more positively and less negatively than they regard others. Insofar as it is logically impossible for most people to be better than others, we label this tendency an illusion.

[...]

[T]he "better-than-most" effect does not depend on whether people are comparing themselves with a generalized other ( Brown, 1986 , 1993 ; Brown & Gallagher, 1992 ) or with those who are more similar to themselves, such as fellow students at their own university ( Campbell, 1986 ; Dunning, Meyerowitz, & Holzberg, 1989 ; Schlenker & Miller, 1977 ). Nor is this form of self-aggrandizement found only among college students. At least three studies have shown that individuals facing acute or chronic health threats show the same self-aggrandizing bias when evaluating themselves relative to other patients with the same disease ( Buunk, Collins, Taylor, VanYperen, & Dakof, 1990 ; Helgeson & Taylor, 1993 ; Taylor, Kemeny, Reed, & Aspinwall, 1991 ). In short, there is no support for the contention that these judgments are simply the normatively appropriate perceptions of privileged college students.

[...] [P]eople are highly resourceful when it comes to promoting positive views of themselves. However, these are demonstrations of the ways in which people develop and maintain illusions rather than counterexplanations or exceptions to the effect ( Brown, 1991 ; Taylor & Brown, 1988 ; Taylor, Wood, & Lichtman, 1983 ).

Moreover, evidence continues to accumulate indicating that these self-aggrandizing views are linked to psychological well-being. For example, in the achievement domain, people with high self-perceptions of ability are more apt to attain success than are those whose perceptions are more modest ( Sternberg & Kolligan, 1990 ). Most important, this is true even if these perceptions are somewhat inflated. As one leading researcher

It is widely believed that misjudgment produces dysfunction. Certainly, gross miscalculation can create problems. However, optimistic self-appraisals of capability that are not unduly disparate from what is possible can be advantageous, whereas veridical judgments can be self-limiting. When people err in their self-appraisals, they tend to overestimate their capabilities. This is a benefit rather than a cognitive failing to be eradicated. If self-efficacy beliefs always reflected only what people could do routinely, they would rarely fail but they would not mount the extra effort needed to surpass their ordinary performances. ( Bandura, 1989, p. 1177 )

Other researchers suggested that overly optimistic assessments of one's ability are particularly beneficial during early childhood, facilitating the acquisition of language and the development of problem-solving and motor skills ( Bjorklund & Green, 1992 ; Phillips & Zimmerman, 1990 ; Stipek, 1984 ). Viewing onself in more positive terms than one views others also appears to mollify the effects of stressful events such as health threats. The belief that one is healthier or coping better than other patients similar to oneself is not only highly prevalent in such samples (e.g., Helgeson & Taylor, 1993 ; Reed, 1989 ; Wood, Taylor, & Lichtman, 1985 ), it is also associated with reduced distress (e.g., Helgeson & Taylor, 1993 ; Reed, 1989 ).

[...]

Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory.( American Psychologist, 44, 1175—1184.)

[...]

Bjorklund, D. F. & Green, B. L. (1992). The adaptive nature of cognitive immaturity.( American Psychologist, 47, 46—54.)

Brown, J. D. (1986). Evaluations of self and others: Self-enhancement biases in social judgments.( Social Cognition, 4, 353—376.)

Brown, J. D. (1991). Accuracy and bias in self-knowledge.(In C. R. Snyder & D. F. Forsyth (Eds.), Handbook of social and clinical psychology: The health perspective (pp. 158—178). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.)

Brown, J. D. (1993). Self-esteem and self-evaluation: Feeling is believing.(In J. Suls (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on the self (Vol. 4, pp. 27—58). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.)

Brown, J. D. & Gallagher, F. M. (1992). Coming to terms with failure: Private self-enhancement and public self-effacement.( Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 28, 3—22.)

[...]

Buunk, B. P., Collins, R. L., Taylor, S. E., Van Yperen, N. W. & Dakof, G. A. (1990). The affective consequences of social comparison: Either direction has its ups and downs.( Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 1238—1249.)

[...]

Campbell, J. D. (1986). Similarity and uniqueness: The effects of attribute type, relevance, and individual differences on self-esteem and depression.( Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 281—294.)

[...]

Dunning, D., Meyerowitz, J. A. & Holzberg, A. D. (1989). Ambiguity and self-evaluation: The role of idiosyncratic trait definitions in self-serving assessments of ability.( Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1082—1090.)

[...]

Helgeson, V. S. & Taylor, S. E. (1993). Social comparisons and adjustment among cardiac patients.( Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 23, 1171—1195.)

[...]

Helgeson, V. S. & Taylor, S. E. (1993). Social comparisons and adjustment among cardiac patients.( Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 23, 1171—1195.)

Jahoda, M. (1953). The meaning of psychological health.( Social Casework, 34, 349.)

[...]

Maslow, A. H. (1950). Self-actualizing people: A study of psychological health.( Personality, Symposium No, 1, 11—34.)

[...]

Phillips, D. A. & Zimmerman, M. (1990). The developmental course of perceived competence and incompetence among competent children.(In R. J. Sternberg & J. Kolligan (Eds.), Competence considered (pp. 41—67). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.)

Reed, G. M. (1989). Stress, coping, and psychological adaptation in a sample of gay and bisexual men with AIDS. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles)

[...]

Schlenker, B. R. & Miller, R. S. (1977). Egocentrism in groups: Self-serving biases or logical information processing?( Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 755—764.)

[...]

Sternberg, R. J. & Kolligan, J. (Eds.) (1990). Competence considered. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press)

[...]

Stipek, D. (1984). Young children's performance expectations: Logical analysis or wishful thinking?(In J. G. Nicholls (Ed.), Advances in motivation and achievement: Vol. 3. The development of achievement motivation (pp. 33—56). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.)

[...]

Taylor, S. E. & Brown, J. D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health.( Psychological Bulletin, 103, 193—210.)

[...]

Taylor, S. E., Kemeny, M. E., Reed, G. M. & Aspinwall, L. G. (1991). Assault on the self: Positive illusions and adjustment to threatening events.(In G. A. Goethals & J. A. Strauss (Eds.), The self: An interdisciplinary perspective (pp. 239—254). New York: Springer-Verlag.)

Taylor, S. E., Wood, J. V. & Lichtman, R. R. (1983). It could be worse Selective evaluation as a response to victimization.( Journal of Social Issues, 39, 19—40.)

[...]

Wood, J. V., Taylor, S. E. & Lichtman, R. R. (1985). Social comparison in adjustment to breast cancer.( Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 1169—1183.)

-- Shelley Elizabeth Taylor , Jonathon D. Brown

from "Positive Illusions and Well-Being Revisited: Separating Fact From Fiction"

Quoted on Tue Mar 13th, 2012