Self-assessment of the sexes

  • on average girls underestimate their performance (inferiority complex)
  • boys tend to rate their performance higher than it actually is
  • experience does not lead to an improvement in self-assessment
Topics overview:
Studies on gender self-assessment
Economic consequences

Studies on gender self-assessment

Cronin, 1980 (according to Bischof-Köhler 2006) observed the reporting behaviour of children in a Chicago spelling competition of 10-year-olds. It should be noted that girls on average have a head start in the verbal sector and one could expect better performance from them. Now the following was observed:

gendergender opponenthand raising
girlgirlonly if she knows she’s better
boyboyalways / even after he was laughed at

Boys always raised their hands, regardless of the opponent and even regardless of whether they knew the answer. Girls never volunteered against boys and against other girls only if they knew they were better. When girls played against boys, the only chance they got to score was if the boy gave a wrong answer. After that, she was given an opportunity to correct him.

The study showed a gender difference in the attitude to one’s own performance. It is particularly interesting that girls raised their hand against other girls, but not at all against boys. The study is not an isolated case. Many other studies showed similar effects and it is proven that boys tend to overestimate themselves while girls underestimate their own performance. Even in areas where girls are actually stronger, they have little self-confidence.

In a Brosnan test in 1998 (according to Bischof-Köhler 2006), participants completed a spatial-visual performance test. However, the test was only communicated to half of the group as that. To the other half it was presented as an „empathy test“. Girls in the second group performed better than girls in the first group. The term „spatial-visual performance test“ led to a worse performance of girls. This is called an inferiority complex. For boys, on the other hand, did not show any difference in performance.

So what are the consequences?

Individually, overestimating one’s own abilities can have fatal consequences, for example in road traffic. If a person is firmly convinced that he can do something, he cannot be prevented from doing it. On the other hand, an excess of self-confidence makes a person try out more. The extra experience and practice can lead to you actually being better than others in the end.

Economic consequences

Economically, overestimating one’s own ability leads to stock market crashes and insolvencies1. Let’s get back to the applicant who overestimates and sells himself accordingly in the interview. To what extent the employer believes the exaggerated self-portrayal depends on his specialist knowledge and his awareness of human nature. If the employer believes the false image, he will even attribute other positive qualities to the candidate. This is called the halo effect. The first positive impression of the candidate causes you to „give him a halo“ and simply adds other positive attributes.

Social media channels offer the perfect platform to present a fake image of yourself to others. Employers can protect themselves by defining clear criteria in advance that are important for the job. They should also be able to test them on the candidate. Otherwise, they will believe in the candidate’s qualifications until reality tells him otherwise. The end can be dismissal or bankruptcy. Often the candidate who has slipped undeservedly into a position receives support in the hope of earning the position afterwards.

If such an effect occurs now in mass, this leads to an imbalance in the distribution of interesting positions, usually including power and we know that the overestimation of one’s own self is primarily anchored in the male sex. In addition, self-underestimation triggers the opposite cycle in parallel.

» next topic:

Gender differences in self-esteem

Gender differences in self-assessment have an enormous influence on self-esteem. Learn more »

selfworth-mirror - Happy Jona
Self-esteem – a look in the mirror


  1. Abruf 9.7.2019
  2. Crandall, 1969

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