M. Jackson Group Update – August 2018 – Intelligence Overconfidence

This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.  His post is as follows:

PLoS ONE includes an article: “65% of Americans believe they are above average in intelligence: Results of two nationally representative surveys.”

 
The authors are Patrick R. Heck, Daniel J. Simons, & Christopher F. Chabris.
 
Here’s how it opens:
 
[begin excerpt]
 
The statement that a majority of people claim to be more intelligent than average is literally a textbook example of overconfidence and self-enhancement [1–6]. Here we ask whether such “intelligence overconfidence” is reliably found in large samples weighted to be nationally representative, differs by method of data collection (telephone or online), and varies according to demographic factors including sex, age, and race/ethnicity. The answers to these questions will help solidify the evidence base for popular claims in psychology and contribute to research on self-perceptions, overconfidence, and intelligence.
 
Most demonstrations of the “smarter than average” effect are conducted using convenience samples, a method that raises concerns about generalizability [7,8]. Some studies have improved upon convenience sampling by collecting nationally representative survey data from college [9] and high school [10] students to measure change in self-positivity and narcissism over time. However, student populations suffer the limitations of failing to represent older and less-educated people, differing from the general population in income, race/ethnicity, and sex, and potentially having difficulty imagining the “average person” outside of a university environment.
 
Sampling from a more representative source of participants can overcome these limitations. Applying probability weighting to the sample can then account for over- and under-sampling of demographic groups. Some representative surveys of people’s beliefs about their own intelligence have been reported in the media [11,12]. However, these reports do not include important methodological details like sample sizes, weighting schemes, and inferential statistics. The only published study of a nationally representative sample of Americans reporting overconfident beliefs about relative intelligence was conducted over 50 years ago [13]. For these reasons, we decided to examine the pattern of intelligence overconfidence in the present U.S. population. From two large samples weighted to be nationally representative, drawn using distinct polling methods (telephone and online), with the second constituting a replication of the first, we report the proportions of Americans who agreed with the statement, “I am more intelligent than the average person”.
 
Although self-enhancement and overconfidence have been demonstrated across a broad range of traits [14,15], we chose to focus on the specific trait of intelligence because of its practical and theoretical importance.
 
[end excerpt]
 
Here’s how the Discussion section opens: “Two surveys, weighted to be nationally representative (total N = 2,821), found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that they are more intelligent than average. The survey methods (telephone, online) yielded similar overall agreement rates after weighting responses to match the U.S. population in sex, age, and race/ethnicity. In both surveys, men were more likely to express confidence in their intelligence than were women, and younger people were somewhat more likely to agree with the claim than older people.”
 
Here’s how it ends: “ We conclude that Americans’ self-flattering beliefs about intelligence are alive and well several decades after their discovery was first reported. Our results update the textbook phenomenon of intelligence overconfidence by (1) replicating the effect using large, representative, contemporary samples and two distinct survey methods, (2) demonstrating a degree of calibration across levels of education, and (3) showing moderation based on sex and age. The endurance of the smarter-than-average effect is consistent with the possibility that a tendency to overrate one’s own abilities is a stable feature of human psychology.”
The article is online at:
 
Ken Pope
 
POPE: THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION OUTSOURCES ADJUDICATION OF ETHICS COMPLAINTS—5 FAR-REACHING CONSEQUENCES
POPE: APA’S CONTINUING HUMAN RIGHTS & ETHICS CRISIS—ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY, UNDERSTANDING CAUSES, IMPLEMENTING SOLUTIONS—European Psychologist—In Press—Updated & Revised July 2018
 
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“It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English — up to fifty words used in correct context — no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.” 
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