Death to self-assessment tests
Insights - 14.01.2020
Most people think they can make a good judgment about themselves. But research shows us it is very hard to judge your own skills, personality or performance. So why would we judge people based on self-assessment scores?
Most people think they can make a good judgment about their future behavior and performance. In reality it is very hard to judge one’s own skills. Research shows us in various ways self-assessment is flawed to measure skills, personality or performance. Still in selection and training people are often judged based on their scores on self-assessment tests.
What does research prove?
- People overrate themselves. They overestimate the likelihood that they will engage in desirable behaviors and achieve successes. They are overly optimistic about when they will finish future projects and judge with too much confidence.
- Many people rank themselves ‘above average’ on for example leadership skills, but statistically this is off-course not possible.
- Self-assessment tests only have a modest relation between self-rating and actual performance. For intelligence there is only a 0.2-0.3 correlation and for performing complex tasks there is a correlation of 0.2 in expected versus actual performance.
- Not only employees but also CEO’s show being overly confident when making judgments.
Why is there such a bias?
- Lack of knowledge:
- People often do not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to assess their competences adequately. In a lot of cases the skills needed to recognize a certain competence are the same as the skills needed to give correct responses. For example, if people do not know what is necessary to be innovative and which factors are important, they will also not be able to make a good judgment of themselves on how innovative they are.
- Research shows that people, who perform weaker than their colleagues, fail to show insight in how deficient their performance is. People are only aware of the solutions they came up with, so they are not able to make an accurate estimation of their own competence compared with the overall possibility (the solutions they didn’t came up with).
- Measuring weakly defined skills:
- In many domains it is hard to define what it takes to succeed and people tend to believe they perform above average on skills that are weakly defined. This becomes a difficulty when you ask people to rate themselves on innovation, a concept that is not clear for everybody. It seems that everyone has his own vision or definition for it. This makes it harder to make a good judgment of own competences.
- People neglect own capabilities
- Even when people have all the information needed to make a good self-assessment, they tend to neglect this information. The quality of their assessments is worse than what they are theoretically capable of.
- People don’t compare with others
- When people have information on how others perform, they tend to neglect this information instead of comparing their performance with the performance of their colleagues.
- People can’t predict their behavior in future situations
- People cannot make a good prediction on how they will perform in future situations. They are overly optimistic about their own performance, because they fail to correct for details or factors of future situations. However when you present them the possible alternatives or you explain the situation and the different factors that play a role, people tend to be better in predicting what they would do. In this way you can obtain a better prediction of how people would behave in certain situations.
- People think of the best case scenario
- When people think about the ‘most realistic scenario’ they tend to think about the ‘best case’ instead of the ‘worst-case’. They neglect the information they have on how an event may evolve into a worst-case scenario.
- People ignore past performance
- People tend to ignore the information they have on their own performance of the past. Even if they have experience with a task, they tend to be overly optimistic and ignore bad judgments in the past.
- People overestimate their own skills
- When judgments of employees on ‘how good they are on a skill’ are compared with ‘how good they really perform on that skill’ research proves people overestimate their own performance.
- People steer the outcome
- Research also shows that some people are aware that they have biased self-perceptions. They tend to show a more positive image of themselves in selection contexts or on self-assessment tests to influence the decision to hire them. These people feel the need to self-enhance themselves to get the job they want. People change their self-views due to certain motives and goals they want to achieve, what is function in the given situation.
As a result it is fair to conclude that the evaluation of certain skills only based on self-assessment tests is just wrong. Make people conscious about biased self-assessment and the heuristics they make. Start using objective and validated assessment formats such as situational judgment tests.
Dunning, D., Heath, C., & Suls, J. M. (2004). Flawed self-assessment: Implications for health,
education, and the workplace. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, 69–106.
Bollich, K. L., Rogers, K. H., Vazire, S. (2015). Knowing More Than We Can Tell: People Are Aware of Their Biased Self-Perceptions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1-12
Zell, E., Krizan, Z. (2014). Do People Have Insight Into Their Abilities? A Metasynthesis. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9(2), 111-125