Why we don't really know ourselves

Source : IANS
Last Updated: Fri, May 06, 2011 08:30 hrs

Washington, May 6 (IANS) We often presume that we know ourselves best, but psychologists beg to differ. They believe there are certain aspects in our personality that others know better than us!

'There are aspects of our personality that others know about that we don't know ourselves, and vice-versa,' says Simine Vazire, assistant professor at Washington University-St. Louis

'To get a complete picture of a personality, you need both perspectives,' said Vazire, who led the study with Erika N Carlson.

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 through clothes, musical preferences, or Facebook postings, according to a Washington University statement.

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, reports the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

'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.

Anxiety-related traits, such as stage fright, are obvious to us, but not always to others. Conversely, creativity, intelligence, or rudeness is often best perceived by others.

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.

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