Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Who knows you best? Not you, say psychologists

Date:
May 5, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Know thyself. That was Socrates' advice, and it squares with conventional wisdom. But a new article reviews the research and suggests an addendum to the philosopher's edict: Ask a friend.

Know thyself. That was Socrates' advice, and it squares with conventional wisdom. "It's a natural tendency to think we know ourselves better than others do," says Washington University in St. Louis assistant professor Simine Vazire.

But a new article by Vazire and her colleague Erika N. Carlson reviews the research and suggests an addendum to the philosopher's edict: Ask a friend. "There are aspects of personality that others know about us that we don't know ourselves, and vice-versa," says Vazire. "To get a complete picture of a personality, you need both perspectives." The paper is published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

It's not that we know nothing about ourselves. But our understanding is obstructed by blind spots, created by our wishes, fears, and unconscious motives -- the greatest of which is the need to maintain a high (or if we're neurotic, low) self-image, research shows. Even watching ourselves on videotape does not substantially alter our perceptions -- whereas others observing the same tape easily point out traits we're unaware of.

Not surprisingly, our intimates and those who spend the most time with us know us best. But even strangers have myriad cues to who we are: clothes, musical preferences, or Facebook postings. At the same time, our nearest and dearest have reasons to distort their views. After all, a boorish spouse or bullying child says something to the other spouse or parent. "We used to collect ratings from parents -- and we've mostly stopped, because they're useless," notes Vazire. What such data would show: Everyone's own child is brilliant, beautiful, and charming.

Interestingly, people don't see the same things about themselves as others see. Anxiety-related traits, such as stage fright, are obvious to us, but not always to others. On the other hand, creativity, intelligence, or rudeness is often best perceived by others. That's not just because they manifest themselves publicly, but also because they carry a value judgment -- something that tends to affect self-judgment. But the world is not always the harsher critic. Others tend to give us higher marks for our strengths than we credit ourselves with.

Why doesn't all this information add up to better personal and mutual understanding? People are complex, social cues are many, perceptions of others are clouded by our own needs and biases, studies show. Plus, the information isn't easy to access. "It's amazing how hard it is to get direct feedback," Vazire notes, adding that she isn't advocating brutal frankness at any cost. There are good reasons for reticence.

The challenge, then, is to use such knowledge for the good. "How can we give people feedback, and how can that be used to improve self-knowledge?" Vazire asks. "And how do we use self-knowledge to help people be happier and have better relationships?"

The first answer to these questions may be the most obvious, but not the easiest to practice: Listen to others. They may know more than you do -- even about yourself.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Who knows you best? Not you, say psychologists." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505111952.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, May 5). Who knows you best? Not you, say psychologists. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505111952.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Who knows you best? Not you, say psychologists." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505111952.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins