Scroll to top
© Optimize Consulting Inc. | All Rights Reserved

Phoney Phonies Phenomenon

Optimize Blog - April 14, 2011 - 0 comments

A chance discovery by academics in Nottingham, England has found that a simple optical illusion could unlock a drug-free treatment for arthritis. The computer-generated mind trick has been tested on a small sample of sufferers and found that in 85 per cent of cases it halved their pain.
For the illusion to work patients place their hand inside a box containing a camera, which then projects the image in real time onto a screen in front of them. The subject then sees their arthritic fingers being apparently stretched and shrunk by someone gently pushing and pulling from the other side of the box. The study showed a marked reduction in pain – on average halving the discomfort for that 85 per cent of volunteers. The pain reduction worked only when painful parts of the hand were “manipulated” and for a third of the volunteers it temporarily eliminated the pain altogether.
Hard on the heels of our last blog on Imposter Syndrome we had some further thoughts as we read about this “illusion treatment” that isn’t actually real. Social psychologists have studied this impostor phenomenon since at least the 1970s. Researchers found that people who score highly on imposter scales tend to be less confident, more moody and rattled by performance anxieties than those who score lower.
In a 2000 study at Wake Forest University, psychologists had people who scored highly on an impostor scale predict how they would do on a coming test of intellectual and social skills. An experimenter, they were told, would discuss their answers with them later. Interestingly, the self-styled impostors predicted that they would do poorly. But when making the same predictions in private, and supposedly anonymously, the same people rated their chances on the test as highly as people who scored low on the impostor scale.
In short, the researchers concluded, many self-styled impostors are ‘phony phonies’. They adopt self-deprecation as a social strategy, consciously or not, and are secretly more confident than they let on. In other words, when people think that they might not be able to live up to others’ views of them, they may maintain that they are not as good as other people think and so they lower others’ expectations of them … and get credit for being humble.
Impostor-ism then starts to look a lot more like a self-presentation strategy than a personality trait. Lowering expectations for a performance takes pressure off a person. In mild doses, feeling like a fraud also tempers the natural instinct to define one’s own competence in self-serving ways. At those times feeling like a fraud amounts to more than the stirrings of an anxious temperament or the desire to project a protective humility. It reflects a respect for the limits of one’s own abilities.
However when it is phoney, the outcome can be poisonous where accountability and reliance on specific skills are necessary to be effective. Not having the skills and/or the ability to take on the accountability will result in failure for both the organization and the individual.
If you are a Phoney Phoney it’s time to stop – before it ends in failure for you too.

Related posts

Post a Comment