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Topic: WTF
Submitted By: 1boss
Date Submitted: 02-25-14

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Inmates In Jail Believe They Treat People Better Than Non Inmates

Many studies have shown that people tend to exaggerate their own positive characteristics and abilities. A popular example is the finding that most drivers think they are a better-than-average driver. This suggests there are many sub-standard drivers cruising our roads in the belief they are unusually gifted at the wheel. Similar findings apply for literally hundreds of traits, all of which supports the idea of a widespread, self-serving "better-than-average effect".

However, sceptics have pointed out that perhaps most people really are better than average on many traits. In relation to driving, for example, perhaps the distribution of driving ability is negatively skewed, such that a minority of exceedingly bad drivers drag down the average, effectively leaving most people better than average.

To circumvent this possibility, a team led by Constantine Sedikides has surveyed 85 incarcerated offenders at a prison in South East England about their prosocial traits. The inmates were aged 18 to 34 and the majority had been jailed for acts of violence and robbery. There is no information on the participants' gender. The inmates completed questionnaires anonymously and in relative privacy.

Compared with "an average prisoner" the participants rated themselves as more moral, kinder to others, more self-controlled, more law-abiding, more compassionate, more generous, more dependable, more trustworthy, and more honest. Remarkably, they also rated themselves as higher on all these traits than "an average member of the community", with one exception - law-abiding. The prisoners rated themselves as equivalent on this trait relative to an average community member.

Sedikides and his team say these results show the better-than-average effect cannot be explained by the fact that most participants are in fact better than average. In this case, they said there was "good reason to assume that the average non-prisoner is more honest and law abiding than the average prisoner."

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