“People, quite literally, see themselves as more desirable than they actually are,” says Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. (Click here for another post on his research.) “When people rate themselves on any dimension that’s ambiguous – their managerial skills, their interpersonal skills, their grammar, or their test-taking ability – there’s zero correlation between their self-perception and their performance. When the picture is ambiguous, people give themselves the benefit of the doubt.” …

The researchers discovered this nearly universal self-distortion by photographing university students, then altering the digital images in tiny increments. Using the real photograph as the model, they created 10 other photos, five approximating an idealized version of the student’s face, and five approximating an unattractive version. When the students returned to the lab several weeks later they were asked to pick out their own face from the 10 other photos in the lineup.

The result? Two-thirds of the students selected a photo that was artificially enhanced by 20 per cent.

–Susan Pinker
in The Globe and Mail