Age and the Better-Than-Average Effect


Ethan Zell, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL 61820. E-mail:


People generally evaluate their own attributes and abilities more favorably than those of an average peer. The current study explored whether age moderates this better-than-average effect. We asked young (n = 87), middle-aged (n = 75), and older adults (n = 77) to evaluate themselves and an average peer on a variety of trait and ability dimensions. On most dimensions, a better-than-average effect was observed for young, middle-aged, and older adults. However, on dimensions for which older individuals have clear deficiencies (i.e., athleticism, physical attractiveness), a better-than-average effect was observed for young and middle-aged adults, while a worse-than-average effect was observed for older adults. We argue that egocentrism accounts for these age differences in comparative self-evaluations.