Is it wrong to analyze people psychologically?

People are on a collective search. They are constantly on the move, always striving towards one goal: to finally find oneself. The search for oneself seems to be the mission of the present and it will not end anytime soon.

Because apparently most of them don't even know what they are looking for. The picture of oneself appears profusely distorted. This suggests reading a comprehensive analysis published in the specialist magazine Perspectives on Psychological Science (Vol. 9, p. 111, 2014). In it, the two psychologists Ethan Zell from the University of North Carolina and Zlatan Krizan from Iowa State University summarize 22 meta-studies with a total of more than 200,000 participants on the question of how accurately people can assess themselves.

The short answer is: the majority are pretty far off when asked to assess their skills in various areas. They think they are better than they are, or they make themselves smaller than they are.

No professional group is immune from overconfidence

Benjamin Franklin summarized it succinctly as early as 1750. According to the scientist and one of the founding fathers of the USA, three things in this world are extremely hard: knowing steel, diamonds and yourself. Since then, psychologists have underpinned this saying with an astonishing mass of studies on the fallible self-perception of people.

Just a few examples: In several examinations, prospective doctors showed themselves to be much more convinced of their healing skills than the evaluations of superiors or their results in evaluated tests warranted. The same goes for other employees in the world. On average, there is a large gap between the assessments of their work by themselves or by superiors and colleagues. Musicians and their teachers, athletes and their trainers or students and their lecturers: the perception of oneself and that of others is always far apart. There are studies for all of these groups that attest the respective test subjects to poor self-perception.

This phenomenon is most evident when people grossly overestimate their abilities. In the age of casting shows, this regularly triggers foreign shame attacks. Ironically, the least competent people often seem to consider themselves the greatest and end up on television, for example, where they can embarrass themselves in front of a jury. Two psychologists confirmed this connection in what is probably the best-known study on distorted self-perception. David Dunning and Justin Kruger were even awarded the satirical Ig Nobel Prize for this. Their work showed that the level of overconfidence goes hand in hand with the level of ignorance - and not just on casting shows.