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Five Cases of Professional Self-Deception

Jeevan Sivasubramaniam Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.

Five Cases of Professional Self-Deception

We’d like to think that our grip on reality is pretty solid and we know what’s going on better than most people. We're wrong. Professionals and learned people deceive themselves about their abilities and capabilities as much as anyone else. Here are just five examples from research in the field:

1. "I'm the most competent person here." Ninety-four percent of American university professors think they are better at their jobs than their colleagues. -- Dr. Ashley Wazana in JAMA Vol. 283 No. 3, January 19, 2000.

2. "I don't have biases or prejudices like others do." A Princeton University research team asked people to estimate how susceptible they and "the average person" were to a long list of judgmental biases. The overwhelming majority of people claimed to be less biased than the overwhelming majority of people. --Daniel Gilbert, I'm OK; You're Biased

3."I am a better leader than most." Seventy percent of college students think they are above average in leadership ability. Only two percent think they are below average. --Thomas Gilovich, How We Know What Isn't So

4."Special allowances should be made for my particular industry." Eighty-five percent of medical students think it is improper for politicians to accept gifts from lobbyists. Only 46 percent think it's improper for physicians to accept gifts from drug companies. -- Dr. Ashley Wazana in JAMA Vol. 283 No. 3, January 19, 2000.

5. "I am not as easily bought off as others." A 2001 study of medical residents found that 84 percent thought that their colleagues were influenced by gifts from pharmaceutical companies, but only 16 percent thought that they were similarly influenced. --Daniel Gilbert, I'm OK; You're Biased

Has this list compelled you to think about any of your own self-deceptions? Anything you’d care to share below?