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Pretty much everybody thinks they’re better than average. But in some cultures, people are more self-aggrandizing than in others. Until now, national differences in “self-enhancement” have been chalked up to an East-West individualism-versus-collectivism divide. In the West, where people value independence, personal success, and uniqueness, psychologists have said, self-inflation is more rampant. In the East, where interdependence, harmony, and belonging are valued, modesty prevails.
Virtually everywhere, people rate themselves above average. But the more economically unequal the country, the greater was its participants’ self-enhancement.
...other research suggests that competition, especially in winner-take-all situations, makes standing out important and this undermines modesty and encourages its opposite. That’s what happens in “highly polarized economies, where wealth at the top is gross and deprivation at the bottom is stark,” says Loughnan. But the effect can be evinced experimentally even in egalitarian, self-effacing cultures, like Japan. On the other hand, where resources are equally distributed, self-deprecation and blending in are more valued.
Economic policymakers should also take note. “We’re living through a time of considerable economic reform in Western countries,” he says. “The nature of that reform will have a big impact on people’s personal and social wellbeing.” Reform, then, “is not just about making the society richer, but how you distribute those riches.”
Now an analysis of data gathered from 1,625 people in 15 culturally diverse countries
The study’s participants, university students