If you think you know yourself better than anyone else knows you, a new study says think again.
A psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis has found that the individual is more accurate in assessing one’s own internal, or neurotic traits, like anxiety, but that friends are better judges of intellect-related traits, like intelligence and creativity. And there’s more: even strangers are equally adept as our friends and ourselves at spotting the extrovert in us all.
Simine Vazire, Ph.D., Washington University assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences, developed the self-other knowledge asymmetry (SOKA) model, which she tested by calling upon 165 volunteers and giving them a number of different tasks. They took an IQ test in order to obtain an objective measure of behavior; they all participated in a group discussion to see who emerged as the take-charge individual; and they took a social stress test in which trained experimenters with fake stern demeanors filmed participants in a narrow, cramped room, as they gave a two-minute public speaking exhibition on the topic of what I like and don’t like about my body. Each participant also graded him or himself and group members on a 40-trait personality rating form.
Vazire’s model correctly predicted that self ratings would be more accurate for internal things like thoughts and feelings such as sadness and anxiety, for example, than the ratings of friends and strangers. Vazire says that makes sense because, after all, you can mask your inner feelings. However, she says, others are often better than the self in things that deal with overt behavior.
Vazire says the self has difficult in judging itself accurately in what are called evaluative traits, like intelligence, attractiveness and creativity. It’s hard for people to judge their own traits like that because everyone wants to be seen as intelligent and attractive. The self is better at judging friends’ intelligence than its own, Vazire says, because it’s not threatening to us to admit that our friends aren’t brilliant, but it’s definitely threatening to ourselves to admit that we’re not brilliant.