Study: More college freshmen feel 'above average'
MARTHA IRVINE, AP National Writer
JUNE 17, 2011

San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge has made a
career out of finding data that she says shows that college students and others
their age are more self-centered--narcissistic even--than past generations.

CHICAGO (AP) — Among academics who track the behavior of young adults and
teens, there's a touchy debate: Should the word "entitled" be used when talking
about today's younger people? Are they overconfident in themselves?

Jean Twenge, author of the book "Generation Me," is in the middle of the
discussion. The San Diego State University psychology professor has made a
career out of finding data that she says shows that college students and others
their age are more self-centered — narcissistic even — than past generations.
Now she's turned up data showing that they also feel more superior about
themselves than their elders did when they were young.

"There are some advantages and some disadvantages to self-esteem, so having
some degree of confidence is often a good thing," says Twenge. But as she sees
it, there's a growing disconnect between self-perception and reality.

"It's not just confidence. It's overconfidence."

And that, she says, can pose problems, in relationships and the workplace —
though others argue that it's not so easy to generalize.

"If you actually look at the data, you can't just condense it into a sound bite. It's
more nuanced than that," says John Pryor, director of UCLA's Cooperative
Institutional Research program, which produces an annual national survey of
hundreds of thousands of college freshman, on which Twenge and her
colleagues based their latest study.

That study was recently published online in the British journal Self and Identity.

Among other things, Twenge and her colleagues found that a growing
percentage of incoming college freshmen rated themselves as "above average"
in several categories, compared with college freshmen who were surveyed in the

When it came to social self-confidence, about half of freshmen questioned in
2009 said they were above average, compared to fewer than a third in 1966.
Meanwhile, 60 percent in 2009 rated their intellectual self-confidence as above
average, compared with 39 percent in 1966, the first year the survey was given.

In the study, the authors also argue that intellectual confidence may have been
bolstered by grade inflation, noting that, in 1966, only 19 percent of college
students who were surveyed earned an "A'' or "A-minus" average in high school,
compared with 48 percent in 2009.

"So students might be more likely to think they're superior because they've been
given better grades," Twenge says.

Statements like that can set off the generational firestorm.

Young people are quick to feel picked on — and rightly so, says Kali
Trzesniewski, an associate professor of human development at the University of
California, Davis.

"People have been saying for generations that the next generation is crumbling
the world," Trzesniewski says. "There are quotes going back to Socrates that say
that kids are terrible."

But in her own research, she says she's been hard-pressed to find many
differences when comparing one generation to the next — and little evidence that
even an increase in confidence has had a negative effect.

Many bosses and others in the workplace have long argued that recent college
students often arrive with unreasonably high expectations for salary and an
unwillingness to take criticism or to pay their dues.

"But a lot of them have a confidence that we wished we had," says psychologist
Jeffrey Arnett, a research professor in the psychology department at Clark
University in Massachusetts. He studies "emerging adulthood," a term that has
been coined to describe the period from age 18 to 29 when many young adults
are finding their footing.

Arnett doesn't object to Twenge's findings. But he adds: "I disagree with using
those findings as a way to promote these negative stereotypes of young people,
which I spend a lot of my time battling against."

He says those stereotypes also overshadow positive trends related to young
people, in the last decade or so.
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How college students
think they are more
special than EVER:
Study reveals rocketing
sense of entitlement on
U.S. campuses
By Daily Mail Reporter
5 January 2013

Books aside, if you asked a
college freshman today who
the Greatest Generation is,
they might respond by
pointing in a mirror.

Young people's
unprecedented level of
self-infatuation was revealed
in a new analysis of the
American Freshman Survey,
which has been asking
students to rate themselves
compared to their peers since

Roughly 9 million young
people have taken the survey
over the last 47 years.

Up, up and away! Over the
past 50 years American
students have increasingly
grown confident not only
socially but also about their
own writing and intellect skills
and their confidence in
leadership ability

Psychologist Jean Twenge
and her colleagues compiled
the data and found that over
the last four decades there's
been a dramatic rise in the
number of students who
describe themselves as being
'above average' in the areas
of academic ability, drive to
achieve, mathematical ability,
and self-confidence.

But in appraising the traits that
are considered less invidualistic
- co-operativeness,
understanding others, and
spirituality - the numbers either
stayed at slightly decreased
over the same period.

Researchers also found a
disconnect between the
student's opinions of
themselves and actual ability.

While students are much
more likely to call
themselves gifted in
writing abilities, objective
test scores actually show
that their writing abilities
are far less than those of
their 1960s counterparts.

...Studies suggest
weaker students
actually perform worse
if given encouragement
at boosting their

'An intervention that
encourages [students] to feel
good about themselves,
regardless of work, may
remove the reason to work
hard,' Baumeister found.

But if you found yourself
bothered by a person always
talking about how wonderful
they are, remember that their
future may not be bright.

'In the long-term, what tends
to happen is that narcissistic
people mess up their
relationships, at home and at
work,' Twenge said. Though
narcissists may be charming
at first, their selfish actions
eventually damage

It's not until middle-age they
may realize their lives have
had a number of failed

And even if they recognize
something is wrong they may
have a hard time changing.

'It's a personality trait,' says
Twenge. 'It's by definition very
difficult to change. It's rooted
in genetics and early
environment and culture and
things that aren't all that
Delusions of "normal" people
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