Revealed: One of the smallest, yet one of the most significant mechanisms driving the human mind.
Nature has awarded every human being with the feeling that he is superior to others in whatever he does, including anything related to him, like his personality, physical attributes, power, possessions, etc.
Although it is known as superiority bias, there is a mechanism behind it which is not known to science. A mechanism so small; you can hardly call it a mechanism, but is SOLELY responsible for pride, arrogance, flattery, etc. and is the core reason why sports and games exist.
According to the current science, superiority bias is when people think too much of themselves by overrating their positive qualities and abilities without any connection to reality.
Following is the first ever explanation of how its underlying mechanism works. It also explains the reason why it is at the root of all good and evil in the society:
If we do not have good confidence in doing something, having the stance that we will not be able to do it, e.g., blaming on luck, like “today is my bad day”, there will be no possibility of its success.
On the other hand, having confidence increases the chances of its success, as it optimizes our chances that we may have lost by either not trying or not trying hard enough.
To supply such confidence on an ongoing basis in order to optimize our day-to-day interactions, the optimizing aspect of natural selection 1 has hard-wired 2 our system 1, which is non-conscious, to have the stance that “we are superior in doing whatever we do when compared to others”.
It works by making us overestimate our qualities and capabilities in relation to the same qualities and capabilities of others without any connection to reality.
As it is driven by system 1, which is non-conscious, such stance of superiority reaches us (i.e. system 2) as an inner feeling. For the same reason, system 2 is neither aware of its logic, nor has any control over it.
Besides such limitation, as both systems are designed by the process of natural selection to work as a team to reach common goals and as system 1 is capable of high level of logic processing, system 2 takes the logic of its superiority supplied by system 1 for granted with confidence.
Such confidence helps a person optimize his interactions by utilizing his capabilities to the maximum.
E.g. there is a possibility of success when a man considering himself not to be up to the mark to marry a girl proposes to her with confidence. His chances of marrying her would not have been the same without such confidence.
As conflict between both systems can make their operations cumbersome, they have to work in harmony.
To maintain such harmony, the optimizing aspect of natural selection 1 has designed a mechanism I call “Superiority Mechanism”. It makes the self (i.e. system 2) to be constantly on a lookout of proving itself to be superior than others in whatever it does instead of deliberating on the logic used by system 1, based on the reasoning that system 1 is a high level logic processor.
It is also known as illusory superiority. As it makes people believe that they are better than the average, it is also known as “better-than-average effect”. As it affects each and every person in the world, the view that everybody is “above average” does not make any sense, demonstrating the fact that it has no connection to reality.
To harmonize with such stance of superiority, the optimizing aspect of natural selection 1 has also hard-wired our system 1 with the belief that anything related to us, e.g. our physical attributes, personality, power, possessions, family, children, affiliations, social connections, taste, etc. are also superior to others.
Besides promoting mental and physical health, the optimizing aspect of the mechanism is the reason why sports and games exist and why we participate and strive to succeed in them.
It is a result of thousands of generations of the evolutionary process and is so deeply rooted in the brain, there are people who feel superior to others for the very reason they don’t feel superior to others, as they know that most people in the world do.
Although science is oblivious to such an inter-generation mechanism, without it, the progress mankind has made would not have been possible.
How to Deal With It?
Superiority mechanism is a tool designed by the process of natural selection to benefit us by optimizing our day-to-day interactions.
Although it is responsible for the progress mankind has made, it has a side effect, which can be prevented by understanding its logic, as follows.
When you feel you are superior to others in something, remember not to make the feeling of superiority ITSELF your goal, or else, you may get stuck in your status of being superior.
E.g. while traveling in a luxury car owned by you, do not fall into the slippery slope of feeling superior about the fact that you own a car which is superior to others; instead feel superior about its utility – that it will provide you the comfort in reaching your destination.
As such mechanism is not known, many people end up making superiority their goal, which can snowball their feeling of being superior and go out of control, as demonstrated by the following example:
When a person achieves success in becoming rich propelled by the unconscious drive of superiority supplied by the mechanism, he is typically considered to be superior by others. Such consideration connects the superiority to his effort of achieving success in earning money, which gives further significance to him being superior to others, resulting into the drive of superiority being stronger, resulting into his increased effort in achieving success in earning more money, thereby increasing the chances of success, and so on, which makes the drive stronger, self-propelling and never ending.
As the underlying superiority mechanism is hard-wired in system 1, it is difficult to handle its snowballing effect (however, if one is careful of not falling into the slippery slope of feeling superior and getting stuck into it; it can be used as a carrot-and-stick approach to raise his level).
On the other hand, when a person fails to achieve success, it results in frustration.
One way or the other, it plays a major role in crime and violence in the society, which can be avoided JUST BY understanding its logic, which in this case is, not to get stuck in feeling superior about the money earned, but about the utility it brings.
How Does It Affect People?
The mechanism, which for the first time ties up the topics of pride, arrogance, flattery, criticism, etc. together, affects different people differently based on their personality, conditions and circumstances, which results from constantly dealing with the incongruity of its bias, as explained in the following examples.
In order to maintain harmony between the systems…
- Pride results when a person, based on the mechanism, achieves something
- Arrogance results when a person, based on the mechanism, continues to be successful in proving himself (or things related to him) to be superior to others on an ongoing basis (typically seen in authorities, politicians and the rich)
- Superiority complex results when a person knows he is inferior to others in something and, based on the mechanism, tries to counter such feeling by the false belief of superiority
- Constant criticism of others results when a person, based on the mechanism, tries to prove others to be inferior than him; thereby covertly suggesting that he is superior to them (unless a person criticizes based on facts)
- Flattery results when someone praises a person or substantiates his superiority (or superiority of things related to him), thereby satisfying his quest for proving to be superior to others as a result of the mechanism
- One-upmanship results when a person tries to show his superiority (or superiority of things related to him), based on the mechanism, to his rival
The mechanism demonstrates that our mind is not always logical, as most of us believe, but works on a rational basis.
To summarize, superiority mechanism is a tool designed by the process of natural selection to optimize our interactions. Understanding the simple logic it is based on can optimize our lives and make the world a better place to live.
2 How such bias is programmed is explained under title ‘Preset Interaction Information Processing’, Mechanisms of the Mind, pp50.