Is being an only-child better-than-average?
A study about the impact of growing up without siblings on the Better-Than-Average Effect, and the mediating role of egocentrism.
Lars van den Berg 12383856
Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Amsterdam Business Administration
Bachelor's Thesis and Thesis Seminar Management in the Digital Age Drs. Rob Van Hemert
6546 words 29/6/2021
Statement of Originality
This document is written by Lars van den Berg who declares to take full responsibility for the contents of this document.
I declare that the text and the work presented in this document are original and that no sources other than those mentioned in the text and its references have been used in creating it.
The Faculty of Economics and Business is responsible solely for the supervision of completion of the work, not for the contents.
Table of contents Page
Theoretical framework 7
Better-Than-Average Effect 7
Sibling condition 11
Sample, design, and procedure 14
Analytical plan 16
Hypothesis testing 19
Reference list 28
Appendix 1: Reliability scale analysis 36
Appendix 2: Descriptives 39
Appendix 3: Assumptions 39
Appendix 4: Survey 41
Appendix 5: Hypothesis testing 52
The purpose of this study is to examine whether individuals evaluate themselves as better than average on different abilities, skills, and personality traits. Specifically, it is investigated whether only-children evaluate themselves relatively more favorably, compared to individuals who have siblings. Furthermore, this paper explores whether the relatively heightened levels of egocentrism amongst only-children mediate this relationship. Drawing on prior research, evaluating skills, abilities, and personality traits as better-than-average is not something extraordinary. Earlier research provides statistical evidence for this cognitive bias, called the Better-Than-Average Effect, across different countries and target groups. This paper broadens the scientific knowledge about this bias and addresses a research gap between two distinct fields of research: research on cognitive biases and research on children. Three things are hypothesized: first, individuals tend to evaluate their own skills, abilities, and personality traits relatively more favorably, compared to the evaluation of an average peer’s. Second, only- children report a higher magnitude of the Better-Than-Average Effect, compared to sibling- children. Third, only-children report a higher magnitude of the better-than-average effect, due to higher levels of egocentrism amongst only-children. These hypotheses were tested by sending out a cross-sectional survey which resulted in 192 respondents in total. Participants were asked to make comparative evaluations of their own skill level and that of an average peer with the same age and gender. Results displayed support for the first and the second hypothesis, however mo support was found for the third hypothesis. This means, that individuals, and specifically only-children, evaluate their own abilities, skills, and personality traits relatively more favorable, compared to the evaluation of an average peer.
Over the last forty years, the rate of families with only one child has doubled to 22 percent in the United States (Livingston, 2020; Siman, 2020). This trend can also be noticed in the United Kingdom where ‘only-children are becoming the norm (Cavendish, 2019)’. Despite this growing trend, in society the stereotypical only-child is still seen as a spoiled, lonely, self- centered, narcissistic, antisocial, and bossy individual (Mõttus, Indus & Allik, 2008; Wu, Liang
& Wang, 2018). Recent research of Griffiths and colleagues (2021) provided statistical evidence that only-children were indeed more self-centered, compared to sibling-children. On the contrary, for the other insultations, there is little till no empirical evidence (Dufner, Back, Oehme & Schmukle, 2020; Stronge, Shaver, Bulbulia & Sibleyet, 2019). Nevertheless, the negative stereotype of an only-child is still commonly believed. But if others negatively stereotype only-children, how do these only-children evaluate themselves? Do they evaluate their own personality traits, abilities and skills as above average compared to an average peer?
Is self-centeredness related to these evaluations? And do they believe being an only-child is better-than-average?
Prior research found that 80 percent of all drivers perceived their own driving skills as above average, when they were asked to compare their skills to an average driver’s (Horswill, Waylen & Tofield, 2004; McCormick, Walkey and Green, 1986). Therefore, evaluating the self as above average is not something extraordinary. It is a cognitive bias, known as the Better- Than-Average Effect (BTAE), and almost every human being falls victim for it. The Better- Than-Average Effect or illusory superiority is a bias regarding how individuals evaluate themselves, compared to an average peer. Individuals have the tendency to evaluate themselves as better than their average peer on different abilities, personality characteristics and skills (Alicke & Govorun, 2005; Brown, 2012; Muller, Sirianni & Addante, 2021).
This paper will look at the difference in magnitude of the BTAE, between only-children and sibling-children. To the best of my knowledge, no prior paper performed research on this relationship, and therefore this is the research gap that will be investigated. However, there were studies which explored the differences between only-children and sibling-children on other dimensions. According to these, the groups differed in academic outcomes (Claudy, 1979;
Falbo, 2012; Liu, Chen, Yang & Hu, 2017; Lao & Dong, 2019; Polit, Nuttall & Nuttall,1980;
Poston & Falbo, 1990), likeability by peer’s (Kitzmann, Cohen & Lockwood, 2002), social skills (Sang & Nelson, 2017) personality traits (Stronge et al., 2019; Yang et al., 2019), and level of egocentrism (Jiao, Ji, Jing & Ching, 1986). An individual’s level of egocentrism also affected the magnitude of the BTAE these individuals experience (Kruger, 1999; Kruger &
Burrus, 2004; Krisan & Suls, 2008; Zell & Alicke, 2011). Therefore, I will also investigate whether egocentrism mediates the relationship between the magnitude of the BTAE and growing up with or without siblings.
Consequently, the research question is the following: To what extent do only-children evaluate themselves relatively more favorably, compared to individuals who have siblings? And does the level of egocentrism mediate this relationship?
The goal of this paper is (a) to close the research gap and provide statistical evidence that growing up with siblings has a significant effect on the magnitude of the BTAE individuals experience and (b) to provide evidence that egocentrism mediates the relationship between the magnitude of the BTAE and growing up as an only-child.
The outcome of this paper will contribute to the fields of science as well as to practice.
First, it closes the research gap and possibly identifies a relationship between two distinct fields of research: research on cognitive biases and research on children. Since the BTAE belongs to a family of cognitive biases, providing new evidence that the magnitude of these biases has a relationship with how an individual grew up, could be an interesting contribution. Besides,
combining these two distinct branches of research, has never been done before and could be a valuable contribution to the fields of science.
Furthermore, it will also add to practice. By investigating whether having siblings influences the magnitude of the BTAE, managers get insights on which individuals tend to evaluate themselves more favorably. Therefore, they obtain the opportunity to anticipate this behavior and gain fairer comparative evaluations of their employees. As a result, they can provide more informed feedback, and this will eventually, contribute to the productivity of the organization.
To structure this paper accordingly, I will start by going in-depth and review existing research about the BTAE, the differences between only-children and sibling-children, and egocentrism. Consequently, different hypotheses will be proposed within this section. Next, the different methods used to execute this research will shortly be discussed. After this, the data will be interpreted, and consequently, the hypotheses will be supported or rejected.
Furthermore, in the discussion section, the findings will be summarized, possible alternative explanations will be investigated, and further research directions and implications will be provided. A short conclusion will finish this paper, where the results will be compiled.
The Better-Than-Average Effect
The Better-Than-Average Effect (BTAE) or illusory superiority, is defined as a positive bias in self-perception, where individuals tend to evaluate one’s own current abilities, attributes, and personality traits more favorably than they evaluate an average peer’s (Alicke & Govorun, 2005; Brown, 2012; Muller, Sirianni & Addante, 2021). It belongs to a family of cognitive biases. A cognitive bias is a phenomenon in which human cognition systematically produces a reliable subjective representation, distorted in comparison to objective information (Haselton,
Nettle & Murray, 2015). Put more simply, this means that the human mind produces a subjective reality that is not objectively correct.
The BTAE has been researched extensively in the past, across different target groups, with different skills or attributes, and in different countries (Stankov & Lee, 2014). The cognitive bias seems to present in almost all self-evaluations humans make. For example, when participants were asked to a evaluate their own relationship, compared to a relationship of an average adult, it was found that the participants perceived their own relationship as better than average (Buunk & Van der Eijnden, 1997). The BTAE was also present in self-evaluations of healthy and unhealthy eating behaviors (Hoorens & Harris, 1998), self-reported levels of memory (Schmidt, Berg & Deelman, 1999), and even condom responsibility (Ross-Bailey, Moring, Angiola, & Bowen, 2014). Surprisingly, the effect does not stop with the evaluation of a person’s own attributes, but even extends to the evaluation of the attributes of participant’s close friends, family (Pedregron et al., 2012) and even to fan members of the participants’
soccer club (Goldie & Wolfson, 2014). Their attributes, abilities and personality traits were also evaluated more favorably and ‘better than average’, compared to the evaluation of an average peer (Pedegron et al., 2012).
A specific form of the BTAE is the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This effect states that the worst performers, who’s performance ranked in the last quartile, reported the highest overestimation of their performance, due to a lack of meta-cognitive skills. This caused them to make more mistakes, but also made them ignorant towards realizing their shortcomings, making them meta-ignorant. The top performers, who’s performance scored in the highest quartile, relatively underestimated their performance. These individuals were aware of their shortcomings and knew they did not possess the meta-cognitive skills to perform above average.
Besides, the top-performers assumed that the cognitive tasks they were asked to perform in the study, were perceived just as easy or even easier for everyone else. Therefore, they
underestimated their performance slightly (Dunning, Johnson, Ehrlinger & Kruger, 2003;
Dunning, 2011; Kruger & Dunning, 1999).
However, a participant’s level of incompetence does not mean that levels of education affect the magnitude of the BTAE. Research of Varnum (2015) provided statistical evidence that there was no significant correlation between level of education and the magnitude of the BTAE. Moreover, experts appeared to be equally susceptible to the BTAE as novices, despite the additional trainings or expertise they possessed (Waylen, Horswill, Alexander & McKenna, 2004).
There are determinants that increase the magnitude of the BTAE. One of those factors is related to the traits or abilities that are measured in the research. For example, when individuals were asked to evaluate themselves on personality traits compared to abilities, they tend to favor themselves relatively more on personality traits. Besides, individuals have a desire to hold a positive self-image, and this desire affects the magnitude of the BTAE. Therefore, participants rated themselves more favorably on positive compared to negative traits, and for personality important compared to unimportant attributes. Accordingly, individuals report a higher magnitude of the BTAE on traits that are more motivational significant for them (Brown, 2012; Zell, Strickhouser, Sedikides & Alicke, 2020). Besides, certain demographics and personality characteristics also increased the magnitude of the BTAE, whereas religious individuals tend to evaluate themselves as relatively more favorably, compared to non-religious individuals (Erikson & Funcke, 2014; Gebauer, Sedikides & Schrade, 2017). This difference also holds for people who scored higher on socioeconomic status (Varnum, 2015), self-esteem (Zell et al., 2020), or narcissistic traits (Campbell, Rudich, Sedikides, 2002).
On the other side, the magnitude of the BTAE can be decreased due to certain factors.
For example, it was found that when participants were held accountable for their judgements, the magnitude of the BTAE decreased (McKenna & Myers, 1997). Besides, personal contact
and individuation of the comparison target also decreased the magnitude. This could be explained due to the fact, that participants were able to make better relative judgements about the comparison between their own, and the comparison target’s capabilities, when the comparison target was individuated or when they had personal contact. Thus, when the comparison target was less abstract, the magnitude decreased (Alicke et al., 1995). The perception of ‘average’ also influenced the magnitude of the BTAE. In research of Kim, Kwon and Chiu (2017), it was found that participants perceived the abilities of the comparison target for general or scientific skills as below median. The ‘average’ of these abilities were estimated around the 40th percentile. Therefore, when asked to evaluate their own skills compared to an average peer, they tend to compare themselves with a comparison target with below median skills. This resulted in a higher magnitude of the BTAE.
The magnitude of the BTAE can be measured via four methods: the direct method, the indirect method, the forced choice method, and the percentile method. All of them provide a valid measurement for the BTAE (Zell et al., 2020). Within this research, I will make use of the indirect method to measure the BTAE, where participants are asked to rate their own level of skill and the level of skill of an average peer on separate scales (Alicke & Govorun, 2005).
According to prior research, using the indirect method, resulted in more reliable outcomes since individuals were more self-serving with the direct method (Otten & Van der Pligt, 1996). To strengthen this research, I will start by replicating prior research and measure the Better-Than- Average Effect in general. Therefore, I hypothesize the following:
Hypothesis 1: Individuals tend to evaluate one’s own current abilities, attributes, and personality traits more favorably than they evaluate an average peer’s.
As mentioned above, within this research it will be investigated whether the magnitude of the BTAE depends on an individual growing up with or without siblings. Therefore, the independent variable is called ‘Sibling condition’. This variable is a dummy variable and consists of two conditions: only-child and sibling-child. An only-child is a child who has no brothers or sisters. The other condition, sibling-child, are those participants who grew up with brothers or sisters. According to prior research, there are significant differences between only- children and sibling-children.
Prior research stated that there were differences in personality traits, where only- children reported higher levels of neuroticism and openness to experience. Besides, they reported lower levels of conscientiousness and agreeableness (Stronge et al., 2019; Yang et al., 2019). Additionally, there was no difference in the level of narcissism (Dufner et al., 2020;
Eyring & Sobelman, 1996). Besides, only-children were less likely to report anxiety and depression symptoms (Cao et al., 2021). Nonetheless, other research provided evidence that only-children were more likely to express symptoms of depression (Chi, Huang, Wang &
Zhang, 2020; Pickhardt, 2008; Tang & Dai, 2018). This could originate from the fact that only- children experienced less ‘love awareness’ from their families. Love awareness was a term used to assess empathy and consciousness of emotional support from other individuals (Lui, Munakata & Onuoha, 2005). Moreover, individuals who grew up with siblings showed higher life satisfaction, compared to only-children (Maheshwari & Jamal, 2015).
Another difference can be found in demographics. Only-children reported a higher obesity risk, compared to individuals with siblings (Li et al., 2017). Besides, individuals who grew up as an only-child were employed in higher occupational statuses and reached higher levels of education, compared to individuals who grew up with siblings (Claudy, 1979; Falbo, 2012; Liu, Chen, Yang & Hu, 2017; Lao & Dong, 2019; Poston & Falbo, 1990; Polit, Nuttall
& Nuttall,1980). On the contrary, other research suggested that having a sibling increased performance in school (Qian, 2009).
Furthermore, only-children scored lower on social skills, since they had no siblings to interact with during their childhood (Krynen, 2011). Consequently, it was found that children who grew up with siblings have better social and interpersonal skills (Downey & Corden, 2004;
Sang & Nelson, 2017). According to Downey, Corden and Yucel (2015), this difference originates very early in one’s life, since sibling-children do increase their social skills in a faster pace between kindergarten and fifth grade, compared to only-children, who develop these skills significantly slower. Not to mention, there were no differences found in self-esteem between the groups (Maheshwari & Jamal, 2015).
Additionally, growing up with siblings has a significant effect on a person’s capability to take perspective. Individuals with siblings possessed a better capability to look at a situation from an alternative view (Sang & Nelson, 2017). Another difference was noticed in the level of self-appraisal between the groups. In the research of Maheshwari & Jamal (2015), participants who were an only-child reported a higher ideal-self in sports, popularity, looks, and performance. Hence, they assigned higher expectations to their own performance, popularity and looks. This could possibly be related to a higher magnitude of the BTAE. Therefore, I propose the following hypothesis.
Hypothesis 2a: Only-children report a higher magnitude of the Better-Than-Average Effect, compared to sibling-children.
The differences between individuals who grew up as only-child and those who grew up with siblings, also extended to the level of egocentrism. Egocentrism essentially means ‘an embeddedness in one’s own point of view (Looft, 1971, p. 485)’. According to Muuss (1982),
egocentric individuals are unaware of the fact that other individuals have different points of views than they have, and therefore, are unable to put themselves into the situation of others.
There used to be only validated scales for egocentrism with adolescent samples. However, the Egocentrism scale of Tajmirriyahi & Ickes (2020) has proven to be a reliable measurement of egocentrism with adult samples. This scale is used in this research and assesses egocentrism as a personality-trait.
Prior research provided evidence that only-children tend to be more egocentrically focused, compared to individuals with siblings (Jiao et al., 1986). This can also be seen in the memories of these individuals, whereas they had more self-focused memories, compared to sibling children (Wang, Leichtman & White, 1998). Besides, recent research of Griffiths and colleagues (2021) proved that only-children more self-centered, compared to sibling-children.
In the research field of the BTAE, it was found that individuals tend to evaluate themselves more favorably, since they focused egocentrically on their own skills and did not take the skills of the comparison target into account (Krisan & Suls, 2008; Kruger, 1999; Kruger
& Burrus, 2004; Zell & Alicke, 2011). Research of Zell and colleagues (2020) found that variation in the magnitude of BTAE is likely to occur, due to overemphasizing of a participant’s own abilities and neglecting the other, thus due to egocentrism.
Consequently, I expect to find that only-children tend to evaluate themselves relatively more favorably, compared to participants with siblings, due to a higher level of egocentrism.
Therefore, a complete mediating relationship between the variables is suspected. Accordingly, the third hypothesis states that egocentrism mediates the prior hypothesized relationship (2a):
Hypothesis 2b: Only-children report a higher magnitude of the Better-Than-Average Effect, compared to sibling-children, due to higher levels of egocentrism amongst only- children.
Sample, design, and procedure
To investigate whether the magnitude of the BTAE depends on a participant growing up as an only-child or with siblings, and whether this relationship is mediated by egocentrism, a quantitative cross sectional survey design was used. This means that data was collected from a population through the means of a survey, at one given point in time (Lavrakas, 2011).
Intending to collect the data for this research, a Qualtrics survey was used. The survey was administered entirely online with English-worded statements and questions. It was sent out to the sample by making use of close personal connections of the researcher and two others.
Therefore, a convenience sampling method was used. This is a non-probability sampling method from a population, where participants who are conveniently available participate in the study (Lavrakas, 2008). Participation was entirely voluntarily and there was no compensation for completing the survey. The survey assessed multiple variables, as can be noticed in Appendix 4, however for this research the non-relevant variables were removed.
Distribution of the survey resulted in 214 respondents. However, not every respondent (N=214) was included in the final sample (N=192). In the survey, a question assessed participant’s attention to the different statements, asking them to choose the ‘correct’ answer.
In the original sample, seventeen respondents wrongly answered this question, and these were removed from the final sample. Besides, irregularities within the data were removed. For example, five participants wrongly responded to the statements, by leaving them unanswered or not according to the survey instructions. These were also detached from the sample, resulting in a final sample of 192 respondents in total for the hypotheses analysis.
Within the final sample, 66% of the respondents was female, and 34% was male. Their age ranged from 17 till 65 years old (M = 27.310, SD = 0.873). Furthermore, 9.1% (N=18) of
the participants was an only-child. Of these only-children, 56% was female and 44% was male, with an age range of 18 – 53 years old (M=28.110, SD=10.459).
This study included three variables: the Better-Than-Average Effect, sibling condition, and Egocentrism. Next to these variables, different control variables were included to strengthen the outcomes of this research and rule out alternative effects.
The Better-Than-Average Effect: the BTAE was measured with the indirect method.
Therefore, participants were asked to evaluate their own skill level, and that of another individual with the same age and gender. This was assessed on separate 11-point Likert scales (Alicke & Govorun, 2005), where 0 was ‘not at all’, and 10 was ‘very much’. Participants were inquired to make an evaluation on five different personality traits, abilities, or skills selected from prior studies (Zell & Alicke, 2011; McCormick, Walkey and Green, 1986). Examples of these were ‘honesty, ‘intelligence’, and ‘driving ability’. The different magnitudes of these attributes were combined into one variable. As can be seen in table 1, the Cronbach’s alpha reported a value of 0.726, which implicates an acceptable internal consistency.
Sibling condition: To indicate whether a participant grew up as an only-child or a sibling-child, a demographic question was used. The question was assessed as follows: ‘With how many siblings (brother(s) or sister(s)) did you grow up?’. Participants could choose between 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4 or more siblings. Later, the question was transformed into a dichotomous variable, and was coded as follows: 0 for only-children (those who selected 0 siblings), and 1 for sibling-children (those who selected 1, 2, 3, and 4 or more siblings).
Egocentrism: To determine the levels of egocentrism amongst participants, an 8-item scale of Tajmirriyahi and Ickes (2020) was used. The questions were measured on a 7-point Likert scale (1 = completely disagree, and 7 = completely agree). Examples of items in the
survey were: ‘I am often told by people who know me well that I think the whole world revolves around me’ and ‘I just take care of myself, my problems, and my needs and let other people take care of themselves’. The reliability scale showed a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.749, which refers to an acceptable internal consistency.
Control variables: Different control variables were included to rule out alternative effects on the hypotheses. Prior research stated that the magnitude of the BTAE is influenced by a participants’ age (Zell et al., 2020). Therefore, age was included in the research as a control variable. The other control variable was narcissism since egocentrism is a part of narcissism.
They are two distinct, but closely related topics. Before the validation of the Egocentrism scale, levels of egocentrism used to be measured by assessing levels of narcissism (Campbell, Reeder, Sedikides & Elliot, 2000). Therefore, including narcissism as a control variable, rules out alternative effects on the hypothesized mediating relationship.
To investigate the first hypothesis, whether individuals tend to evaluate one’s own current abilities, attributes, and personality traits more favorably than they evaluate an average peers’, a one-sample t-test was utilized. The dependent variable was the BTAE. The difference between the evaluations of the self and the average peer, across all five dimensions, were compared.
For the second hypothesis, whether only-children reported a higher magnitude of the Better-Than-Average Effect, compared to sibling-children, a linear regression was utilized.
Sibling condition was the independent variable. The magnitude of the BTAE was the dependent variable.
To test the third hypothesis, whether egocentrism mediates the relationship between the magnitude of the BTAE and sibling condition, PROCESS macro model 4 by Hayes (2018) was
utilized. The independent variable was sibling condition. The dependent variable was the BTAE, and the mediating variable was egocentrism.
Table 1 show the means, standard deviations, and Pearson’s correlations between the main variables (BTAE, sibling condition and egocentrism) and the control variables (narcissism and age). In this table, some interesting correlations can be found. There was a significant negative correlation between the BTAE and sibling condition. Besides, egocentrism negatively correlated with sibling condition, and with BTEA. However, narcissism was not significantly correlated with the BTAE. Therefore, narcissism was removed as control variable for first and second hypothesis. Nevertheless, narcissism was significantly correlated with both egocentrism and sibling-condition, and therefore it was still included as control variable during the third hypothesis. Surprisingly, age was not significantly correlated with the BTAE. However, since prior research provides considerable amounts of statistical evidence for a significant relationship between age and the BTAE, age was still included as control variable.
Furthermore, the Cronbach’s alphas of every scale report a value higher than 0.7, meaning they are acceptable. Besides, no individual item could be removed in order to improve the scales.
Before utilizing a linear regression analysis to retrieve results for the second and third hypothesis, the suitability of the data was checked on basis of the linear regression assumptions.
First, the data complied with the independence assumption, since the data was collected by utilizing a cross-sectional survey. Therefore, the values of residuals were independent of each other. Second, the normality assumption was met, meaning all residuals were normally distributed, as can be seen in graph 1 in appendix 3. Third, the Variance Inflation Factor (VIF) reported a value of 1.091, as can be seen in table 1 in appendix 3. This lies beneath the cutoff value of five, and therefore no multicollinearity exists in the data. There was no need to check the assumptions of linearity and homoscedastic since sibling condition was measured using a dichotomous scale.
To secure the reliability of the data, the outliers were analyzed. Within the dataset there were 12 outliers, using a cutoff value of 2. By comparing the dataset with and without outliers, it was noticed that removing the outliers decreased the standardized b with a value of 1.156, as can be noticed in the Appendix 3 in graph 2.1 and 2.2. Besides, it decreased the significance of the data. Therefore, the outliers were not removed, and were included during hypothesis testing.
Hypothesis testing Hypothesis 1
The first hypothesis stated that individuals tend to evaluate one’s own current abilities, attributes, and personality traits more favorably than they evaluate an average peer’s. To investigate this hypothesis, a one-sample t-test was utilized. As can be seen in table 2, there were significant differences between the evaluation of the self, and the evaluation of the average peer on all the five attributes measured. These differences can also be interpreted as the magnitudes of the BTAE. Accordingly, the average magnitude of these different dimensions
combined, was analyzed. This scale showed an acceptable Cronbach’s Alpha (0.726). As can be seen in table 2, there was a difference between the average evaluation of a participants own attributes (M=7.76; SD=1.12) and the evaluation of an average peer (M=6.43; SD=1.12). This difference or BTAE was significant (t(191)=13.081, p < 0.001), and differed from the test value (0). The evaluation of the self, compared to the evaluation of an average peer was, on average, 1.404 points higher (on an 11-point scale). Within the sample, 83% of the participants evaluated their own current abilities, attributes, and personality traits more favorably.
This means that participants evaluated their own current abilities, attributes, and personality traits more favorably, compared to the evaluation of an average peer with the same age and gender, and therefore the first hypothesis is supported.
The second hypothesis stated that only-children report a higher magnitude of the Better-Than- Average Effect, compared to sibling children. This hypothesis was tested utilizing a linear regression with the control variable (age) in the first model. In the second model, the independent variable (sibling condition) was added. In both models, BTAE operated as the dependent variable.
As can be seen in table 3, model 2 showed a r-squared value of 0.061. This means, that 6.1% of the variance in the BTAE can be explained by the variables age and sibling condition.
This model also showed a statistically significant p-value (0.004). Accordingly, the r-squared
change in model 2 reported a value of 0.051, by adding sibling condition as a variable.
Therefore, 5.1% of the variance in BTAE could be explained by sibling condition. Besides, the p-value lied below the cutoff value for significance (p < 0.05) and therefore, sibling condition has a significant impact on the BTAE.
The effect size of this difference was determined by looking at the unstandardized b value. These values can be seen in table 3, where we noticed an unstandardized b value of - 1.001 (SE=0.339, t=- 2.955, p=0.004) for sibling condition. This value demonstrated that when sibling condition increased with a value of 1, thus when the participants was a sibling child, the BTAE decreased with a value -1.001 (on a 11-point scale). This can also be seen in graph 1, the difference between the evaluation of the self and the evaluation of an average peer is bigger in the only-child condition, compared to the difference in evaluation in the sibling-child condition.
Therefore, we can conclude that there is statistical support for the second hypothesis;
only-children report a higher magnitude of the BTAE, compared to sibling children, and thus evaluate one’s own current attributes, abilities, and personality traits relatively more favorably.
The third hypothesis stated that only-children report a higher magnitude of the BTAE, due to higher levels of egocentrism amongst only-children, compared to sibling-children. To investigate this hypothesis, mediation model 4 of Hayes (2018) was utilized. Results showed a significant negative relationship between sibling condition and egocentrism, indicating that only-children scored higher on egocentrism. Besides, the relationship between egocentrism and BTAE was significant and positive. This indicated that higher levels of egocentrism, result in a higher magnitude of the BTAE, and vice versa. On the contrary of these findings, no support was found for the third hypothesis. The mediating relationship (b=-0.146, se=0.104, 95% CI [- 0.383, 0.010]) was insignificant, since the 95% confidence interval included zero, as can be seen in figure 1. Therefore, hypothesis 3 was not supported.
The indirect effects of sibling condition on the Better-Than-Average Effect through egocentrism
The aim of this study was to examine whether only-children evaluate themselves relatively more favorably on current abilities, attributes, and personality traits, compared to sibling children. Furthermore, it was aimed to investigate whether this difference was mediated by the relatively heightened levels of egocentrism amongst only-children. This was analyzed using three hypotheses.
Results indicated significant support for both the first, and the second hypothesis. The first hypothesis measured the BTAE in general, and therefore, hypothesized that individuals tend to evaluate one’s own current abilities, attributes, and personality traits more favorably than they evaluate an average peer. Support for this hypothesis implies that individuals perceive themselves as ‘better than average’ on different attributes. Within this research, 83% of the participants reported a positive magnitude of the BTAE (average BTAE of five attributes combined), and therefore evaluated their own abilities, attributes, and personality traits as better than they evaluated an average peer.
Statistical support for the second hypothesis was also found. This hypothesis stated that only-children report a higher magnitude of the Better-Than-Average Effect, compared to sibling-children. This holds that only-children tend to evaluate their own abilities, attributes and personality traits relatively more favorably compared to sibling-children. This finding matters, since there is a growing trends towards only-children in society, as mentioned in the introduction of this paper. Therefore, it is beneficial to understand how only-children are more cognitively biased during their daily decision-making.
Nevertheless, there was no significant support for the third hypothesis. This result was not in line with the expectation that only-children report a higher magnitude of the Better-Than- Average Effect, compared to sibling-children, due to higher levels of egocentrism. Therefore, egocentrism did not mediate the relationship between sibling condition and BTAE.
This research contributed some new and possibly meaningful findings for research and practice. In line with prior discoveries on the BTAE, this paper provided evidence that individuals tend to evaluate one’s own abilities, attributes, and personality traits more favorably, compared to the evaluation of an average peer’s (Stankov & Lee, 2014; Alicke &
Govorun, 2005; Brown, 2012; Muller, Sirianni & Addante, 2021). Presence of the BTAE was found on all five dimensions that were measured in this paper, which replicates previous research (Zell & Alicke, 2011; McCormick, Walkey and Green, 1986). However, this paper revealed that only-children evaluate themselves relatively more favorably, compared to participants with siblings. This difference in magnitude of BTAE between only-children and sibling-children has never been investigated before, and therefore this paper adds an insightful new finding to existing literature.
Surprising was the insignificant mediating effect of egocentrism on the relationship between sibling condition and BTAE. Especially since according to prior research, only- children were more egocentrically oriented (Jiao et al., 1986). This was in line with the findings of this paper, where only-children reported a higher value of egocentrism, compared to sibling- children. Furthermore, research argued that egocentrically focusing on your own skills resulted in a higher magnitude of the BTAE (Kruger, 1999; Zell & Alicke, 2011; Kruger & Burrus, 2004; Krisan & Suls, 2008). Besides, the overemphasis of a participant’s own abilities and neglection of the other, caused variation in the BTAE (Zell et al., 2020). In line with these studies, the relationship between egocentrism and BTAE in this paper was significant and positive. This holds, that higher levels of egocentrism, result in a higher magnitude of the BTAE. Surprisingly, the mediating relationship of egocentrism on the relationship between sibling condition and BTAE, was insignificant. Therefore, only-children did not report a higher magnitude of the BTAE, due to heightened levels of egocentrism. I was unable to discover what factors mediate the relationship between sibling-condition and the magnitude of the BTAE.
An alternative explanation for a mediating relationship between sibling condition and BTAE, could be related to the level of social responsibility individuals feel. According to prior research of MacDonald (1971), there was a difference between how only-children and sibling- children feel socially responsible, where only-children felt more socially responsible, compared to sibling-children. Furthermore, individuals tend to evaluate themselves relatively more favorable on attributes where the social desirability is high, compared to attributes where the social desirability is low (Pedregron et al., 2012). Therefore, this could imply, that the extent to which only-children feel socially responsible is related to the magnitude of the BTAE.
Specifically, this could entail that only-children experience a higher magnitude of the BTAE, since they feel more socially responsible during the comparative evaluations.
Another alternative explanation could be related to the level of perspective taking.
According to recent research of Zell and colleagues (2020), the ability to take perspective is the exact opposite of egocentrism. Since egocentrism did not significantly mediate the relationship between sibling-condition and BTAE, a participant’s ability to take perspective could. As mentioned in the theoretical framework, growing up with siblings has a significant impact on the level of perspective taking. Sibling-children tend to be better able to view situations from alternative views, compared to only-children (Sang & Nelson, 2017). The ability to take perspective could be related to the extent that individuals understand abstract objects.
Aforementioned, the level of abstractionism of the comparison target, affects the magnitude of the BTAE. When the comparison target was made less abstract, the magnitude decreased (Alicke et al., 1995). Therefore, sibling-children could experience a lower BTAE, due to a better capability to take perspective, and thus due to a better understanding of the abstractionism of the comparison target.
The number of only-children (N=18) used during hypothesis testing in this study, was small. This could be seen as a limitation, because there is no guarantee the results are also
representative for a bigger sample. However, according to CBS (2003), the sample is representative for Dutch society, since nine percent of the population in the Netherlands is an only-child, just as in this study. Nevertheless, I encourage future researchers to perform a study which investigates this relationship with a bigger sample of only-children.
The data used in this study was collected via a cross-sectional survey over a short period of only ten days. Besides, participants were mostly originated from The Netherlands. These two can be interpreted as limitations, since there is no guarantee that the results are the same over a longer period and across different countries. On the flipside, the data was collected by using personal connections of three researchers combined. All of them originate from a different side of the Netherlands and have international connections. This made it possible to the distribute the questionnaire to a large sample of different, independent individuals. Therefore, the results are probably representative, and no issue for the validity of this paper. Though, I encourage future researchers to perform a longitude study to investigate whether this relationship is also present in other countries around the world.
The reader should also bear in mind that this study is the first to make a connection between two, priorly distinct, fields of research, as aforementioned. Therefore, I would invite future researchers to strengthen this new connection, and further examine the difference in magnitude of the BTAE, between only-children and sibling-children. Furthermore, future researchers could investigate whether the difference in magnitude, is also present in different cognitive biases. Maybe, only-children also experience a higher magnitude of, for example, the confirmation bias or loss aversion (Corporate Finance Institute, 2020). With the increasing trend towards only-children in society, it is urgent to understand how only-children are more cognitively biased in their decision-making, compared to sibling-children.
This finding also has implications for practice. Managers, as well as employees, can be informed, through this study about the role of sibling-condition on the magnitude of the BTAE.
When managers obtain knowledge about the finding that only-children evaluate themselves relatively more favorably, they can anticipate and provide more informed feedback to their employees. Besides, every individual, from managerial position to employee, is informed through this study that they favor themselves favorably, during their daily decision-making.
Cognitive biases are hard to outsmart, but it is not impossible, according to Soll, Milkman and Payne (2015). Being aware is the first step towards minimizing cognitive biases in daily decision-making (Goldyne, 2007) and this paper provides the first step towards awareness.
Prior research on the Better-Than-Average Effect, did not examine the difference in magnitude between only-children and sibling-children. This paper investigated this research gap, and examined whether participants, specifically only-children, evaluated their own current abilities, attributes, and personality traits relatively more favorable in comparison to the evaluation of an average peer’s (same age and gender). Besides, this paper examined whether higher levels of egocentrism amongst only-children mediated the relationship between the BTAE and sibling- condition.
Within this research, evidence was found that participants evaluate their own current abilities, attributes, and personality traits relatively more favorable compared to the evaluation of an average peer. Result showed that 83% of the respondents evaluated their own attributes as ‘better than average’. Furthermore, the most important finding of this paper is that only- children evaluate themselves relatively more favorably, compared to individuals who have siblings. Therefore, reporting a higher magnitude of the BTAE. However, heightened levels of egocentrism amongst only-children did not significantly mediate the relationship between sibling condition and the BTAE.
In a nutshell, when individuals are asked to make comparative evaluations between their own abilities, attributes, and personality traits, and those of an average peer (same age and gender), they evaluate themselves as ‘better than average’. Specifically, only-children evaluate themselves relatively more favorably, compared to sibling-children.
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Appendix 1: Reliability scale analysis Table 1: Reliability scale Egocentrism
Table 2: Reliability scale Narcissism
Table 3: Reliability scale BTAE
Appendix 2: Descriptives
Appendix 3: Assumptions
Graph 1: P-P plot for normality assumption
Table 1: Multicollinearity assumption
Table 2.1: Outliers kept
Table 2.2: Outliers removed
Appendix 4: Survey
Start of Block: Introduction
First of all we would like to thank you for participating in our survey!
In this study, you will be asked to evaluate yourself AND an average peer (same age and gender) on different personality characteristics and skills. Completion of this survey will take approximately 5-15 minutes. Please notice, that right or wrong answers do not exist in this questionnaire. The best answer is the one most closely connected to your personal feeling or experience.
Participation in this survey is entirely voluntary. Answers are anonymous and confidential.
Your response will only be used for the purpose of our thesis for the study Business
Administration at the University of Amsterdam. Besides, it will not be used for other purposes and will not be distributed to third party's.
The survey will start automatically by clicking the arrow (->) Goodluck!
Eva Sluizeman Else Oosterdijk Lars van den Berg
If you have any questions regarding the questionnaire, do not hesitate to contact me:
Agreement I hereby declare that I have read the information about the survey and agree with the terms of conditions.
End of Block: Introduction Start of Block: Demographics
Age What is your age?
Gender What is your gender?
oNon-binary / third gender (3)
oPrefer not to say (4)
Education What is the highest level of education you successfully completed or are currently enrolled in?
oPrimary education (1)
oSecondary education (2)
oBachelor's degree (5)
oMaster's degree (6)
SiblingCondition With how many siblings (brother(s) or sister(s)) did you grow up?
o0 siblings (1)
o1 sibling (2)
o2 siblings (3)
o3 siblings (4)
o4 or more siblings (5)
Nationality What is your nationality?
End of Block: Demographics Start of Block: Ego
Please indicate to what extent you (dis)agree with the following statements:
Disagree Somewhat disagree
Agree Strongly agree
I assume that everyone shares the same views I do, and I’m surprised when that’s not the case.
() I live in a little world that is defined by my own thoughts, feelings, desires, and concerns.
() I am often told by people who know me well that I think the whole world revolves around me. () I am rarely inclined to question the validity of my perceptions or judgments. () In everyday conversations, I prefer to talk about myself rather than other people. () I rarely have occasion to seek out and consider other people’s advice. () I am quick to see how outside events will affect me and my welfare, but I’m slower to realize how they will affect other people. () I just take care of myself, my problems, and my needs and let other people take care of themselves. ()
End of Block: Ego
Start of Block: Individualism
IndiHori To what extent do you experience the following situations?
Never or definitely no
About half the time
Always or definitely yes
I often do my own thing. () One should live one’s life independently of others. () I like my privacy. () I prefer to be direct and forthright when discussing with people. () I am a unique individual. () What happens to me is my own doing. () When I succeed, it is usually because of my own abilities. () I enjoy being unique and different from others in many ways. ()
IndiVerti To what extent do you experience the following situations?
Never or definitely no
About half of the time
Always or definitely yes It annoys me when other people perform better
than I do. () Competition is the law of nature. () When another person does better than I do, I get tense and aroused. () Without competition, it is not possible to have a good society. () Winning is everything. () It is important that I do my job better than others. () I enjoy working in situations involving competition with others. () Some people emphasize winning; I’m not one of them. ()
End of Block: Individualism Start of Block: Collectivism
ColHori To what extent do you experience the following situations?
Never or definitely no
About half the time
Always or definitely yes
The well-being of my coworkers is important to me. () If a co-worker gets a prize, I would feel proud.
() If a relative were in financial difficulty, I would help within my means. () It is important to maintain harmony within my group. () I like sharing little things with my neighbors. () I feel good when I cooperate with others. () My happiness depends very much on the happiness of those around me () To me, pleasure is spending time with others.
ColVerti To what extent do you experience the following situations?
Never or definitely no
About half the time
Always or definitely yes I would sacrifice an activity that I enjoy very
much if my family did not approve of it. () I would do what would please my family, even if I detested that activity. () Before taking a major trip, I consult with most members of my family and many friends. () I usually sacrifice my self-interest for the benefit of my group. () Children should be taught to place duty before pleasure. () I hate to disagree with others in my group. () We should keep our aging parents with us at home. () Children should feel honored if their parents receive a distinguished award. ()
End of Block: Collectivism Start of Block: Narcissism