We are Lousy Self-evaluators

A stranger walks into a room and sits down behind a table. He picks up a piece of paper and read aloud a generic-sounding weather report. He completes his “report” in about 90 seconds and walks out of the room.

Next, you’re asked to guess his IQ.

You’re part of a psychological experiment, and you object to the absurdity of the request. I don’t know anything about that guy. He just came into a room and read a report. It wasn’t even his report- you gave it to him to read! How am I supposed to know his IQ?

Reluctantly, you make a wild guess. Separately, Fake Weatherman is asked to guess his own IQ. Who made a better guess?

Amazingly, you did, even though you know nothing about Fake Weatherman. Two (German) psychologists.. conducted this experiment, and they found that the strangers’ IQ predictions were better than the predictions of those whose IQ was being predicted- about 66 percent more accurate.

To be clear, it’s not so much that you’re a brilliant predictor; it’s that he’s a lousy self-evaluator. We’re all lousy self-evaluators. College students do a superior job predicting the longevity of their roommates’ romantic relationships than their own.

Savor, for a moment, the preposterousness of these findings. Fake Weatherman has all the information, and you’ve got none. He’s got decades of data- year’s worth of grades, college entrance exams cores, job evaluations, and more. Fake Weatherman should be the worlds foremost expert on Fake Weatherman!

Chip & Dan Heath, Switch