An egocentric bias occurs when one thinks of the world from one’s own point of view and self perception too much. Wishful thinking is a common example of an egocentric bias. Wishful thinking is essentially the belief that one is special. For positive traits, special means having more of the trait than others. In one study, it was found that 8 out of 10 people believed they had above average driving ability. If that’s true, then 2 out of 10 people must be really, really, bad drivers.
Judgments of traits are subject to wishful thinking or egocentric bias more if they are ambiguous than if they are unambiguous. For example, people believe themselves to be more fair (just) than others, and they think of themselves as more emotional than others. However, people don’t necessarily think of themselves as more competent (having more ability, e.g., more intelligence).
Consider that fairness and emotionality are hard to judge, especially in other people versus oneself. However, ability can be more easily tested or demonstrated. Thus, people’s wishful thinking tendency is lower for the trait that is less ambiguous, or more demonstrable.
Why do people make egocentric biased judgments? Are people motivated to think of themselves as better than others? Not necessarily. One explanation that does not involve motivation goes as follows: (a) people make judgments based on the information available, and (b) people have access to more information about the judgment from their own point of view, so (c) they use more information from their own point of view than from any other point of view. Hence, people make egocentric judgments, because the amount of information available for the judgment is greater for oneself than others, not because one is motivated to think better about oneself than others.
Team members often evaluate their own contribution to the team effort as more than others, and the same goes for group academic projects.
People also tend to use wishful thinking for events. For example, even though the divorce rate is 50%, people do not think that the likelihood of their marriage ending in divorce is 50%. People will even apply wishful thinking to events they cannot control.
Wishful thinking works in the opposite direction for negative events. Compared to the average person, people believe they are less likely to be at risk for negative events, such as developing cancer, or getting divorced, or having an automobile accident.