Most of us think we're above average, and tend to overestimate our own performance on all kinds of tasks. Critical feedback is supposed to fix that, bringing our perceptions of ourselves more in line with how other people see us. But does it? Margarita Mayo of IE Business School and her research team tracked more than 200 MBA students over the course of an academic year. The student’s peers gave them feedback at regular intervals on four things: confidence, time management, multitasking, and getting buy-in.
In line with previous research, everyone thought more highly of themselves than their peers did. But over time, getting critical feedback did make people’s self-images more realistic. However, not everyone responded to criticism the same way. The female students quickly adjusted their views of themselves to match others’ opinions. By the end of the year, the average woman saw herself almost exactly as her peers saw her on three out of four skills. Men showed a different pattern.
While their unrealistic self-perceptions did become a little more in line with others’ views of them, it took longer for them to adjust, and at the end of the year they still had inflated self-views on all four skills. Why the different? The researchers suggest that women are socialized to be more sensitive to other people's opinions. While this can have a downside, it also increases their self-awareness.