London, Jan 13: Not just normal human beings but even convicted criminals consider themselves better than others when it comes to social norms.
In a novel study, researchers from University of Southampton in Britain have shown that prisoners believe themselves to have more pro-social characteristics – such as kindness, morality, self-control and generosity – than non-prisoners.
The research also showed that prisoners did not rate themselves as more law abiding than non-prisoners but they did rate themselves as equal, said the study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.
If the prisoners self-enhanced by considering themselves superior to fellow inmates or community members on ‘macho’ traits, such as toughness, don’t be surprised.
“However, what surprised me was that self-enhanced on pro-social traits on which they could demonstrably be inferior to others,” said Constantine Sedikides, director of centre for research on self and identity at University of Southampton.
During the study, 79 prisoners from a prison in south England filled out a questionnaire, asking them to rate themselves in comparison to the average prisoner and the average member of the community on nine traits.
These were – moral, kind to others, trustworthy, honesty, dependable, compassionate, generous, self-controlled and law abiding.
Participants rated themselves as superior to the average prisoner on all traits.
Surprisingly, they rated themselves superior to the average community member on all traits as well, with one exception where they considered themselves as law-abiding as the average community member.
“It is very important for people to consider themselves good, valued and esteemed no matter what objective circumstances might be,” said professor Sedikides.
“Prisoners also need to be encouraged to explore the reality of life and overcome the societal barriers that can prevent a successful reintegration into the community and the ability to desist from future crime,” he added.