Can most people be better than average?

There is a popularly referred controversy: "most individuals think they are better drivers than the average". People think that this is not possible, and that this shows how individuals falsely regard themselves superior to others. But I think the statement is actually at least partly true: most people are  better drivers than the average, although not perhaps in the way people themselves think about it.

A common belief is that it is a mathematical impossibility that most people would be better-than-average drivers. But people are confusing average with median. If we take "average" to mean arithmetic average, things become  different. For driving skill, you do not have to assume  that the skill function has  a "normal" Gaussian distribution.

Of course, mostly it is down to the definition of "what is a good driver". I'll take a simplified definition that a good driver gets from place A to place B, safely and at reasonable speed, without causing distress to others. I tend to think that most people are normal drivers, a minority are better than normal, and a small minority are really horribly bad, dangerous and irritating drivers.

Let's put this into numbers, with a population of 10 drivers, their driving skill graded on a scale from 1 to 10. Six of them are ordinary drivers, and get a score 7. One handles the car very well, gets score 8, and one handles the car very well and is also exceptionally well aware of other traffic, can handle difficult environmental hazards such as rain and snow safely etc, so she gets a 9.

Then there is the grandpa who is 85 years old, half blind and drives according to a rule book from 1954, though slowly. He gets a score 5. And, finally, there's the young bloke who thinks he is The Stig, but does not control the car nearly as well as he thinks, ignores rules, and drives recklessly. He gets a score 3 for driving skill.

And voilà, we have a population of 10 where the average driver score is 6.5, and 8 out of 10 drivers are better than average. Not everyone can be better than average, but it is possible that most people are.

4 kommenttia:

  1. There's also another explanation to this "better than average driver" feeling. I say most people are better than average in driving where they usually drive - their everyday environment - compared to the rest of the drivers (who only occasionally come to visit). They know which lane to take, how the traffic light cycles go, how to park where they usually park. Or how to drive in deep snow and dodge the bears (if that's what it takes to get to work and back home again everyday. :-) In totally different circumstances they might not be as adept, but since mostly they drive where they always drive, they rightly feel they really are better than average.

  2. Kirjoittaja on poistanut tämän kommentin.

  3. Kumitonttu, quite right, that is true as well. And in general, there are infinitely many ways to define a "good driver".