DEFINITION of ‘Self-enhancement’
In behavioural finance, self-enhancement is a common emotional bias. Also referred to as the self-enhancing bias, it is the tendency for individuals take all the credit for their successes while giving little or no credit to other individuals or external factors. People may emphasize their positive attributes while at the same time highlighting negatives associated with others. This can impact investors negatively as they become overconfident about their own abilities; they will attribute past success to their own skill and reject the role of good luck in those outcomes.
People who have achieved success, in the financial markets or otherwise, have the tendency to attribute much of that success to their own hard-work, skills, intelligence, or creativity. Luck and other outside influences are largely discounted, lest they diminish the credit due to their own explicit abilities. When a person seeks to self-enhance they may do so by telling positive stories about themselves and negative stories about others.
A common example of self-enhancement is the finding that most people rate themselves “above average” when asked to rate their abilities and rate others as “below average”. Most people rate themselves above average at driving a car while rating other drivers below average. Of course, by definition it is impossible for everybody to be above average. People also tend to rate their personal attributes such as attractiveness, intelligence, leadership ability and patience as above average. In one study, 94% of college professors self-reported being above average in their profession.