Lake Wobegon Effect

Have you ever believed that you are better than your friends/peers or even your manager?

The answer is we usually overestimate our abilities. It’s just not you but most of us believe that we are better than others. For some of us, this may be true, but very few would acknowledge if they are below average. This tendency to overestimate one’s abilities, especially in comparison to others is called the Lake Wobegon Effect which is often called the Lake Wobegon Fallacy.

Where did it come from?

Lake Wobegon is a fictitious place made up in an old radio series  ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ hosted by Garrison Keller. This host describes the people in the town as “All the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average”.As per Wikipedia, this is also known as Illusory Superiority. This simply means humans tend to overestimate their strengths and underestimate their weaknesses as compared to others.  

A lot of experiments and surveys have repeatedly shown that most people believe that they possess talent or skills that are better than most people.

If you take a look at how people rate themselves on their own performance reviews, chances are you will see none as below-average performers.

What can you do to avoid it?

Most of us fall for this bias. However, we can avoid this bias by:

  • Acknowledging our limitations. 
  • Get other people’s honest opinions of your abilities.

Everyone has strengths and opportunities for improvement. But no one is above-average at everything. And by no means is everyone above-average at everything.


References: Multiple sources from books/articles.

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