What is the Lake Wobegon effect? Explanation, meaning, definition


Lake Wobegon is a fantasy town by the writer Garrison Keillor. It is located in the Midwest of the USA and is characterized by the fact that everything here is seemingly perfect. In the eyes of the inhabitants, the town has only strong women, very attractive men and highly gifted children. The situation is unrealistically exaggerated, but has some things in common with human nature. Psychology uses the name Lake Wobegon when it speaks of the phenomenon of self-overestimation or self-esteem distortion. It calls it the Lake Wobegon effect.

How does the Lake Wobegon effect manifest itself?

We speak of the Lake-Wobegon effect when a single person or the majority of people in a country consider certain personal abilities to be above average. The abilities can relate to all areas of life, for example, driving, but also medical health care or behavior in the workplace. The bias serves to increase one’s own self-worth. Men are more prone to the Lake-Wobegon effect than women, probably due to differences in socialization. Girls today are still more likely to be brought up to be modest and reserved. Only slowly is the picture changing.

The Lake Wobegon effect at work: People who display the Lake Wobegon effect are convinced that they have better ideas than their colleagues, are the only ones who really work or have sole leadership competence. They believe they are perfect and flawless and are constantly striving to maintain their idealized self-image. That they are very insecure at the bottom of their heart, they use every opportunity for self-promotion. The Lake-Wobegon effect has great similarity to the Dunning-Kruger effect. These people also have a very high opinion of themselves and consider themselves experts, although they have only half knowledge. In addition, they lack the ability to perceive their incompetence, so they cannot change anything about their condition.

Is the Lake-Wobegon effect more common in some countries?

In studies, psychologists found that the Lake-Wobegon effect is particularly prevalent among Americans. According to this, U.S. citizens are much more convinced than Germans that they are more productive than their colleagues. However, the self-image rarely matches reality. It is possible that this unrealistic self-assessment has something to do with the „American dream,“ which is still a mantra for many Americans. Self-confidence also feeds on the idea that the U.S. is an undisputed world power. We Germans also carry around a kind of overconfidence, for example, that we are more productive than the Mediterranean countries, above all Greece. However, evaluations show that Greeks work about 500 hours more per year than Germans. How productive Greeks are, however, cannot be deduced from this.

The unpleasant side of overestimating oneself: People who suffer from overestimating themselves quickly devalue others, because in their thoughts there are only two extremes, there are hardly any intermediate levels. They tend to lecture and often present their convictions arrogantly. Probably each of us has had to deal with incompetent people. If they are superiors, cooperation is particularly difficult. If the persons in question perhaps even suffer from delusions of grandeur, the work is a single burden.

The Lake-Wobegon effect also has positive sides

However, the Lake-Wobegon effect can also make us feel more confident in an insecure situation. Being confident in a job interview can be the deciding factor in getting the job, and in sales it can increase a company’s sales.

Using the Lake Wobegon effect entrepreneurially: U.S. companies in particular use the effect to improve the competitiveness of their teams. This can be seen, for example, in the Google Group. The company uses a concept similar to the Lake Wobegon effect for its personnel recruitment. Google only hires applicants whose skills exceed the average of its employees. This leads to an improvement in the qualifications of all employees in the medium and long term.

The Lake Wobegon effect can also manifest itself in poor risk management. If successes are attributed only to one’s own abilities, but failures are always attributed to external causes, this is dangerous for a company. Many companies are still convinced that everything works well for them and that they are not threatened by risks. If you take a closer look, it turns out that there is a deficit of risk intelligence in the management. If management is actually confronted with a risk that has not been calculated for, its entire existence may be at risk. Good risk management deals with unforeseeable scenarios in the future in order to avoid exactly that.

Autor: Pierre von BedeutungOnline

Hallo, ich bin Autor und Macher von BedeutungOnline. Bei BedeutungOnline dreht sich alles um Worte und Sprache. Denn wie wir sprechen und worüber wir sprechen, formt wie wir die Welt sehen und was uns wichtig ist. Das darzustellen, begeistert mich und deswegen schreibe ich für dich Beiträge über ausgewählte Worte, die in der deutschen Sprache gesprochen werden. Seit 2004 arbeite ich als Journalist. Ich habe Psychologie und Philosophie mit Schwerpunkt Sprache und Bedeutung studiert. Ich arbeite fast täglich an BedeutungOnline und erstelle laufend für dich neue Beiträge.


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