Monday, July 27, 2015

Overcoming illusory superiority

Are you an above average driver?

Do you think you're an above average driver?

Back in 2011, Allstate looked at that very question:

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of American drivers rate themselves as "excellent" or "very good" drivers.

So do we have a positive attitude about ALL drivers on the road? Not exactly.

American drivers' positive self-rating is more than twice as high as the rating they give to their own close friends (29 percent "excellent" or "very good") and also other people their age (22 percent).

In other words, Josephine thinks she's a great driver and Wayne is terrible...while Wayne thinks he's a great driver and Josephine is terrible.

They can't both be right.

Another example of this was found by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Its most recent survey of traffic culture attitudes repeated something that the AAA Foundation had observed in prior years.

As in previous years, the survey also highlights some aspects of the current traffic safety culture that might be characterized most appropriately as a culture of indifference, in which drivers effectively demonstrate a “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude. For example, substantial numbers of drivers say that it is completely unacceptable to drive 15 mph over the speed limit on freeways, yet admit having done that in the past month.

Of course it's OK for us to speed, since we're above average drivers. The problem happens when all those other incompetent drivers speed. Right?

These are just a few examples of the phenomenon of illusory superiority.

Illusory superiority is a cognitive bias that causes us to overestimate our positive qualities and underestimate our negative qualities. People tend to think their memories are better than they are, that they're more popular than they are, or that they're healthier than they really are.

This can be a challenge in business, if you are offering a product that people desperately need...but the consumers themselves don't think that they need it. Sticking to the driving example, I've been to traffic school after receiving a traffic citation. The citation was a wake up call; after receiving it, I said to myself, "Hey, I'm a bad driver. I'd better go to traffic school."

Actually, I didn't do that. I went to traffic school because it was better than the alternative of not going to traffic school. In essence, I only went because I was forced to do so.

After all, I didn't need to go to traffic school. I'm an above average driver.

So if you're marketing a product, and you have to battle illusory superiority in your potential customer base, how do you overcome it?
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