Do People Have Insight Into Their Abilities? A Metasynthesis

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2014 Mar;9(2):111-25. doi: 10.1177/1745691613518075.


Having insight into one's abilities is essential, yet it remains unclear whether people generally perceive their skills accurately or inaccurately. In the present analysis, we examined the overall correspondence between self-evaluations of ability (e.g., academic ability, intelligence, language competence, medical skills, sports ability, and vocational skills) and objective performance measures (e.g., standardized test scores, grades, and supervisor evaluations) across 22 meta-analyses, in addition to considering factors that moderate this relationship. Although individual meta-analytic effects ranged from .09 to .63, the mean correlation between ability self-evaluations and performance outcomes across meta-analyses was moderate (M = .29, SD = .11). Further, the relation was stronger when self-evaluations were specific to a given domain rather than broad and when performance tasks were objective, familiar, or low in complexity. Taken together, these findings indicate that people have only moderate insight into their abilities but also underscore the contextual factors that enable accurate self-perception of ability.

Keywords: accuracy; meta-analysis; self-concept; self-efficacy; self-evaluation.