I feel like this came to me in a dream, but I remember reading something about something called the Special Flower Paradox, where everyone thinks that since they are subtly subverting from the norm that they are somehow superior to the normal person, despite there not being such thing as the normal person.

Is there such a thing, or did I dream it up?

  • 6
    I think you mean diverging/deviating from the norm, as subverting it would be something different. I've never heard of this idea as the "special flower problem" (how is it actually a "problem" anyway?) but it's something that has been thrown out there into popular consciousness. It reminds me of this xkcd strip in particular.
    – anon
    Aug 23, 2011 at 1:12

2 Answers 2


What you are describing is not in the philosophical literature, but is found in the blogosphere under the name Special Snowflake Syndrome. I suspect you picked it up there.

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    +1 When I read your link, I started laughing. If you ask me, people like that who embrace the "Special Snowflake syndrome" as a truism are just bitter that they are normal people and not super-cool like others. Yes, there are great similarities between us, but there will always be statistical outliers, and these people will be more unique than the average person. That is, everyone's equal intrinsically, but outliers will deviate statistically from the norm in their measurable characteristics/behavior/etc more than others. Those who seriously deny this are either jealous or ignorant.
    – stoicfury
    Aug 24, 2011 at 17:26

I have been unable to find anything on the "special flower paradox", but it sounds to me like you might be describing a cognitive bias (or self-delusion) known as the "illusory superiority" effect, sometimes called the Lake Woebegone effect. Wikipedia explains:

Illusory superiority is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities, relative to others. This is evident in a variety of areas including intelligence, performance on tasks or tests, and the possession of desirable characteristics or personality traits. It is one of many positive illusions relating to the self, and is a phenomenon studied in social psychology.

Illusory superiority is often referred to as the above average effect. Other terms include superiority bias, leniency error, sense of relative superiority, the primus inter pares effect, and the Lake Wobegon effect (named after Garrison Keillor's fictional town where "all the children are above average"). The phrase "illusory superiority" was first used by Van Yperen and Buunk in 1991.


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