Date of Original Version



Working Paper

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Abstract or Description

People report themselves to be above average on simple tasks and below average on difficult tasks. This paper builds on prior research demonstrating this effect and proposes a simpler explanation for it: that people easily conflate relative with absolute evaluation, especially on ambiguous measures of evaluation. The paper then presents a series of four studies that examine this conflation explanation in successively more stringent tests. These tests distinguish conflation from other explanations, such as regression, differential weighting, and selecting the wrong referent. The effect of absolute performance on ratings of relative performance proves to be remarkably robust, particularly on ambiguous measures, and the results are explained better by conflation than by other theories.