Looking For Lake Wobegon: Why Sometimes We Are All Below Average

Katherine Burson, University of Michigan, Ross School of Business
Joshua Klayman, University of Chicago, Graduate School of Business
People’s evaluations of their relative abilities are important for many consumption domains (sports equipment, technology, etc.), but tend to show asymmetric weighting—depending more on impressions of own performance than on impressions of the comparison group. However, we show that asymmetric weighting is smaller when predicting 1) concrete performance versus general skill level and 2) performance for tasks that are experienced versus hypothetical. We attribute this to poorly-specified scales interpreted as implicitly relative. Moreover, judges’ asymmetrical weighting may be adaptive. This does not mean that judges are sensitive to optimality: People are insensitive to the effects that feedback has on the optimal weighting of estimates.
[ to cite ]:
Katherine Burson and Joshua Klayman (2006) ,"Looking For Lake Wobegon: Why Sometimes We Are All Below Average", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 33, eds. Connie Pechmann and Linda Price, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 569-569.