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Unskilled and Unaware

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Activity Assignment: Unskilled and Unaware of It
John Smith, Michael Anderson, Joshua Jones, Tamika Brumfeld, Ronnie Evans
Barksdale College

Self-esteem is an individual's estimate of one's own self worth, the extent of individual views of good, competence, and decent. Within this activity paper we will discuss why self esteem is important, and why there are discrepancies between the actual self and the ideal self. This paper will discuss the theory of cognitive dissonance in regards to the self-evaluation theory, self-affirmation theory and the realization trap while defining the self-discrepancy theory. The need for high individual self-esteem may lead to irrational logic and individual actions against their own best interest as will be theoretically supported throughout this paper. Concluding that our teams position, will support the theory that individual competence may be inaccurate at times to maintain individual self-esteem.
Self-esteem is defined as an individual’s estimate of his or hers own self-worth and the extent of individual views of what is good competent and decent. This activity paper will discuss the importance of self-esteem and explore any discrepancies between the actual self and the ideal self. The theory of cognitive dissonance as it relates to the self-evaluation theory, self-affirmation theory and the realization trap will be covered while also defining the self-discrepancy theory. This paper will theoretically support the concept of the need for high individual self-esteem and how it may lead to irrational logic and individual actions that work against a person’s own best interest. It will conclude with the team position that individual competence may be inaccurate at times to maintain individual self-esteem.

Individuals are motivated to maintain a sense of consistency among their beliefs and perceptions about themselves. When there is a discrepancy between the actual self and the ideal self, an individual experience distress. As human beings we have a need for positive self-esteem; to feel good about ourselves, Can this need be so strong that it overpowers our logic and lead us to act in ways that are not to our own benefits? Individuals are motivated to maintain a sense of consistency among their beliefs and perceptions about themselves. Carl Rogers surmised there are three sides to the “self”. They are the actual self (how we really are), the ideal self (how we wish we were) and the perceived self (how we see and feel about ourselves). When there is a discrepancy between the actual self and the ideal self, an individual will experience distress. As human beings we have a need to be rid of this distress and to have a positive self-esteem; to feel good about ourselves or to perceive ourselves in a positive manner. Can this need for a positive self-perception be so strong that it overpowers our logical thought processes and lead us to act in ways that are not to our own benefit? "Unskilled and Unaware of it." The focus of this article is the following: “We argue that when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it” (Kruger, Dunning, 1999, p. 2). In other words, when people are assessing themselves as to their abilities do below average people have the knowledge and ability to realize that they are not competent? Another focus of these studies is if competent individuals would also overestimate their abilities or would their competency give them the knowledge to realize what their abilities are? The researchers made four predictions about the relationships between an individual’s ability to perform in certain situations, their self-knowledge about those abilities and whether or not the individuals overestimated their abilities to perform these tasks. From studying previous research and the conclusions of others, the researchers were able to produce the four predictions discussed in the article. From these predictions, the researchers acted upon these predictions by conducting four studies to test the veracity of the experiments. The four studies completed were done to test the veracity of the four predictions made by the researchers. These studies dealt with the areas of humor, logical reasoning, grammar and how competence leads to calibration. The first study dealt with humor in which, “Incompetent individuals grossly overestimated their ability relative to their peers”, while the “top scoring participants underestimated their ability relative to their peers”, (Kruger, Dunning, 1999, p. 5). The second study conducted involved logical reasoning and the results were much the same as the first. When asked about the number of questions the participants had gotten correct, once again the bottom scoring individuals overestimated the amount of correct answers as compared to their actual scores. Study three was conducted using grammar as the domain. Kruger and Dunning reported participants overrating their abilities and functioning as compared to unbiased benchmarks just as they had done in the first two studies (1999, p.8)
A second phase of this part of the study was to gauge if participants could be able to look at the action of others and learn about their own shortcomings in the same actions. The results concluded that bottom scoring individuals “failed to gain insight into their own performance after seeing the more competent choices of their peers and if anything they tended to raise their ability inflated self-estimates, although not to a significant degree” (Kruger, Dunning, 1999, p.10). In study 4 a short training session was given to half the participants in order to asses if training would give those who were incapable with the metacognitive skills required to comprehend that they had not done a good job and hence assist them in realizing the restrictions of their abilities. The results were that the individuals who did receive training were more accurate in assessing themselves (Kruger, Dunning, 1999, p. 13). So how does this relate to the questions of if the need for individuals to maintain a sense of consistency among their beliefs and perceptions regarding themselves can be so strong that it overpowers our logic and leads us to act in ways that are not to our benefits? According to the study incompetent individuals most often do not even realize the level of their own incompetency while competent people often underestimate theirs. “In a phrase, Thomas Gray was right, Ignorance is bliss, at least when it comes to assessment of one’s own ability”, (Kruger, Dunning, 1999, p. 15). If ignorance to one’s abilities causes an individual to try and achieve something they are not capable of, then it may lead to unbeneficial behavior in order to less one’s own cognitive dissonance. But according to the study most incompetent people do not even realize that they perform below average and not only that “they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it” (Kruger, Dunning, 1999, p. 18). If incompetent people are not capable of logic then their need to maintain a consistency in their beliefs about themselves cannot be over powered by it. This does lead to acts that are not beneficial for the individual. A theory of cognitive Dissonance defined as “a drive or feeling of discomfort originally defined as being caused by holding two or more inconsistent cognitions and subsequently defined as being caused by performing an action that is discrepant from one’s customary, typically positive self-conception.(Akert, Aronson, and Wilson)” – When using the cognitive dissonance theory displaced logic may be used to make sense of why we did not perform to what we set as our standards. We use creative justifications such as excuses, it was harder than I thought, or denial, I really did know the answers they used sketchy wording, as to why we failed to meet expectations that we originally set forth. Self-Evaluation Maintenance Theory defined as “research on self-evaluation dynamics has taken several forms. A self-evaluation maintenance (SEM) model of social behavior focuses on the consequences of another person’s outstanding performance on one’s own self-evaluation. It sketches out some conditions under which the other’s good performance bolsters self-evaluation, i.e., "basking in reflected glory", and conditions under which it threatens self-evaluation through a comparison process.(Plous)”—
When the need to boost self-esteem is evident, one aspect of the SEM theory comes to mind is, the process of reflection which is the use of a friends’ accomplishments to raise or maintain the level of self-esteem desired.
Self-affirmation theory defined is a way of reducing dissonance by reminding oneself of one or more of one’s positive attributes. When the need for positive self-esteem is so great in a person logical thinking and behavior is almost always left out of actions. When this theory is in use the person could and usually does flat out deny the negativity in the action by alleviating it with a positive attribute, or justifying the action as not being as negative as portrayed. Rationalization Trap is defined as “when we act to reduce dissonance it can end up as a whole set of justifications and rationalizations that lead to ridiculous or even immoral actions.("Changing")”
The need for a positive self-esteem could become so great that in the act of desperation that someone would act in an embarrassing or offensive manner that it would require them to be deceptive in their explanations of their behavior Self-Discrepancy Theory is “The greater the magnitude and accessibility of a particular type of self-discrepancy possessed by an individual, the more the individual will suffer the kind of discomfort associated with that type of self-discrepancy.(Higgins 1987)”
In the Activity Discussion Statement, if the SDT does not make changes to its ideal-self to come more to what it’s actual-self is then self-esteem would suffer. With that then dejection related emotions such as disappointment and sadness would be triggered, these could lead to serious depression. This paper has supported the theory that self esteem is defined as an individual's estimate of self-worth with regards to good, competence and decent. The supporting theories within this paper confirm that individual self-esteem may be distorted at times and may also be subjective to discrepancies involving conflicting ideas known as cognitive dissonance. Using various theories stated within, may bring forth individual understanding of how misconceptions happen and a better way of avoiding them. Concluding our teams position that because of the need for high individual self-esteem, individual actual self and ideal self may be inaccurately portrayed.

Abraham Tesser& Janet Moore (1990): Independent Threatsand Self-Evaluation Maintenance Processes, The Journal of Social Psychology, 130:5,677-689
Akert, Robin M, Elliot Aronson, and Timothy Wilson. Social Psychology. 8. New York: Pearson, 2013. Print.
Plous, Scott. "Abraham Tesser." Social Psychology Network.Wesleyan University, 02 11 2013. Web. Feb 2013.
"Rationalization Trap." Changing Changing Minds, n.d. Web. Feb 2013.
"Self-Discrepancy Theory." Mediawiki, 06 29 2010.Web. Feb 2013.
Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and Unaware of It: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121-1134. Web.

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