Miscalibration in predicting one's performance: Disentangling misplacement and misestimation

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2021 Apr;120(4):940-955. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000301. Epub 2020 Sep 10.


When people predict their performance, they can be miscalibrated in two ways-they may mispredict how they will perform relative to others (misplacement) and how they will perform in absolute terms (misestimation). Prior work has yielded contradictory conclusions about the relative direction of these two types of miscalibration. Some research found that they occur in opposite directions-that is, that people who believe they are better than average (BTA) tend to underestimate their absolute performance, whereas those who believe they are worse than average (WTA) tend to overestimate their performance. Other studies found that the two types of miscalibration occur in the same direction-that is, that people with BTA beliefs tend to overestimate their performance. We reconcile these apparently conflicting findings by disentangling placement beliefs that are correct from those that are erroneous and focusing on the latter as only these represent instances of misplacement. Two field studies reveal a key asymmetry-erroneous BTA beliefs are primarily driven by misestimation of one's own absolute performance, whereas erroneous WTA beliefs tend to be driven by misestimation of others' absolute performance. A reexamination of data from Moore and Small (2007) supports this insight about the sources of misplacement beliefs. The findings suggest that the conflicting conclusions from prior work might have been attributable to differences in the extent to which results were based on observations with erroneous (as opposed to correct) placement beliefs. This research provides novel insights into the psychology of miscalibration in performance predictions and helps unify seemingly contradictory prior findings. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Social Perception / psychology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*