Have you heard of a town called Lake Wobegon? Of course, there is no such town, no need to go looking it up in an atlas. It's a fictional town created by the American writer, Garrison Keillor, back in the 80's to explain cold reading.
The town supposedly is located in the centre of the state of Minnesota, but due to the incompetence of 19th century surveyors the town cannot be found on maps. In this town, all the women are big and strong, much like Olga the masseuse, or Heidi the barroom bouncer. Get the picture? All the men are handsome and all the children have above average intelligence.
Although only fictional, Keillor's story reflects a key psychological principle commonly referred to as the, "Lake Wobegon Effect."
Flattery Will Get You Everywhere!
I hate to admit this but most of us have fragile egos, which we use to protect us against the harsh realities of this cruel, cruel world. We specialize in convincing ourselves that we are responsible for everything successful in our lives, we also are good at blaming our failures on others. We live in a world of make-believe, fooling ourselves into believing we are something special, someone unique compared to all others, and possess skills and talents that others do not. We all believe we will get more than our fair share of good fortune in the not too distant future.
To give you an idea what the "Lake Wobegon Effect" actually is consider this best-known example; researchers asked members of long-term couples to estimate in percentages the amount of housework each has done, today. The combined total exceeded 100%. How is that possible? Both sides displayed an egocentric bias by focusing on their own work, downplaying their mate's contribution.
In the long run, this egotism is good for you, making you feel more positive about yourself, motivating you to get up off your ass and deal with life's never ending barrage of ups and downs. It also keeps us going when the going gets tough.
Studies have proven, people are unrealistic when it comes to their own personalities. Take these numbers, 94% of people think they are funny, 80% of drivers believe they have more skill driving than the average driver, (unbelievably true even when that person is responsible for a car accident). 75% of people in general say they are more ethical, more intelligent, better looking and are quick to check the yes box on any other positive trait, irrationally believing themselves far better, being more co-operative, considerate, responsible, friendly, reliable and dependable than others.
So, the next time someone throws you a compliment your way, watch your ego soar but please, don't let it go to your head, it's only the "Lake Wobegon Effect."
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