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See Inside December 2005

Get the Picture

You and I haven’t met, but I feel as if I already know you. You’re pretty smart. Above average, in fact. And when you have a goal in front of you—whether it’s completing a work project by the deadline, writing that term paper or getting all the dinner-party details just right—you’re sure you’ll rise to the occasion.

Me, too. Trouble is, we’re often so very wrong about our overconfident self-assessments—and we are blind to that ignorance because we can’t get a complete view of ourselves, as psychologists David Dunning, Chip Heath and Jerry M. Suls explain in their article “Picture Imperfect.” Our muddled thinking impairs thousands of our everyday decisions, affecting our health, education and interactions in the workplace. Hilariously (at least in hindsight), I became the embodiment of that principle when I promised to shape the authors’ original 35,000-word paper into a 3,500-word story for this issue in “just a few days.” A few weeks later an unsurprised but nonetheless amiable Dunning and company finally saw that edit. Turn to page 20 for the results.

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