Various pieces of research (real world and laboratory) have been conducted to examine if people’s appraisal of their own performance and also their performance in relation to others is accurate.
The research has found that under-performers in particular consistently overestimate their performance in relation to their peers. High performers, on the other hand, under estimate their performance in relation to their peers.
The research indicates that poor performers overestimate their performance because their incompetence deprives them of the skills they need to recognize their deficits. Because they have little insight into the quality of their own performance, they are over confident in their estimates of how they performed relative to others.
The research further indicated that, notwithstanding the provision of ongoing feedback on the need to improve, under-performers did not learn from this and continued to over-estimate their own performance.
The research suggests that the reason top performers consistently underestimate how superior their performances is relative to their peers is that they mistakenly assume that their peers find the tasks and tests to be equally easy.
The researchers found that showing the top performers how their peers were doing on the same task, caused them to recognise how exceptional their performance was relative to their peers.
One way of improving under-performers ability to gain self insight is to increase their skill level and their learning.
A second approach suggested in the research is to cultivate a learning mindset which in turn exposes the person to a variety of tasks and consequently a more accurate assessment of the quality of their performances.
Source: Joyce Ehrlinger, Kerri Johnson, Matthew Banner, David Dunning and Justin Kruger. (2008). Why the Unskilled Are Unaware: Further Explorations of (Absent) Self Insight Among the Incompetent. Organisation Behaviour Human Decision Process. 2008 Januray 1 105 (1); PP 98 – 121