The second pugilist’s plight: Why people believe they are above average but are not especially happy about it.

People’s tendency to rate themselves as above average is often taken as evidence of undue self-regard. Yet, everyday experience is occasioned with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. How can these 2 experiences be reconciled? Across 12 studies (N = 2,474; including 4 preregistered studies) we argue that although people do indeed believe that they are above average they also hold themselves to standards of comparison that are well above average. Across a host of domains, we find that people’s typical standards of comparison are significantly above the level of the “average” person (Studies 1A, 1B, 2A, and 3). We further show that people’s tendency to measure themselves against above-average others is due to the increased mental availability of such high-performing standards of comparison (Studies 4A and 4B). Finally, we present evidence that this is not simply the result of self-enhancement by showing that people measure themselves against above-average others even when they feel subjectively inadequate (Study 5A), receive objective information about their poor performance (Study 5B), or evaluate themselves on domains in which they chronically underperform (Study 5C). Even in domains where being above average is undesirable (e.g., rudeness), people bring to mind and compare themselves with above average targets (Studies 2B and 2C). We discuss the implications for self-enhancement research and the importance of examining who people compare themselves to in addition to how people believe they compare with others. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)