Why should we know ourselves

Self-awareness: How well do we know ourselves?

We generally know very well whether we're sociable or reserved, lazy or reliable. But there is one point where we seem to know each other poorly, noted Jessie Sun and Simine Vazire of the University of California at Davis in the journal Psychological Science: "People are not very good at judging how sociable they are."

In order to compare self-assessments and those of others, the psychologists regularly asked more than 400 students for a week via SMS to describe themselves at that moment. The questions asked were characteristics of the personality traits extraversion, tolerance, conscientiousness and emotional stability. During this time, the test subjects also wore recording devices with a microphone on their bodies, which recorded the acoustic events every ten minutes for 30 seconds between seven in the morning and two in the morning. Around 150,000 half-minute sequences were created in this way.

This article is contained in Spectrum Psychology, 3/2019 (May / June)

On the basis of these sequences, six research assistants each assessed the behavior of the participants, for example to what extent statements like the following were true: "During this lesson, the participant seemed calm." Of course, only situations in which other people were present were used for compatibility and sociability. Most of the test subjects were therefore able to estimate well when they were extorting or behaving conscientiously; Self-judgments and judgments by others often matched. But that did not apply to compatibility and emotional stability.

The psychologists offer an explanation for differences in the internal and observer's perspective on emotional stability: "You sometimes feel worried or depressed without expressing it verbally." An observer can therefore hardly assess this characteristic on the basis of the sound recordings alone. On the other hand, friendliness or rudeness would express themselves more strongly in behavior; therefore the observers could form a better judgment on this. "Our findings cast doubt on the fact that people know when to be amiable and when to behave roughly." However, insight into one's own behavior is essential for living together.