Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Beware the America Idol Effect

For five seasons now, around this time of the year, I am reacquainted with the American Idol Effect. The American Idol Effect is a total inability to judge oneself. The show serves as an object lesson for us all. It is a perfect example of the complete inability of many people to critically self-evaluate. The people on this show actually, honestly think that they can sing and that they are great singers. Unfortunately, only a small fraction actually are. A few audition, I am sure, just to get their fifteen minutes of fame. Even considering that the makers of the show choose the worst singers to highlight so as to entertain us, there are a surprising number of bad, bad singers that think they are good.

A study in Scientific American in April of 2001 (Violent Pride) showed that criminals did not suffer from a lack of self esteem. Low self image did not drive them to crime. From the article -
"Several years ago a youth counselor told me about the dilemma he faced when dealing with violent young men. His direct impressions simply didn't match what he had been taught. He saw his violent clients as egotists with a grandiose sense of personal superiority and entitlement, but his textbooks told him that these young toughs actually suffered from low self-esteem."
The study showed that many of the criminals had narcissistic tendencies and were unable to take any criticism. When it was demonstrated that they didn't have the ability they claimed or believed they had, that is when they became violent and angry. A behavior that any viewer of American Idol would recognize when Simon Cowell rightly critiques a horrible singer on the show.

I do sometimes worry that I am just like the rest of the public and that I am unable to accurately judge my abilities. Please shoot me if I suddenly think I am proficient at something that I actually stink at! The American Idol Effect does not just apply to singing. Many a school evaluation, job interview, or pick up line has suffered from the same effect. Try to objectively realize that you failed the class on your own, you won't get the job, and that you are not as attractive to women as you think you are.

Thinking subjectively, and even sometimes imagining you are the hero of your own story is alright just so long as it doesn't get in the way of actually functioning in reality. Let's watch American Idol Tuesday night and let it be a cautionary tale for us all.

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