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I Reveal Myself Better Than You!

Self/other biases in how well self-disclosures describe.

Key points

  • We evaluate ourselves by our thoughts, and others by their behaviors. Behavior is a more accurate baseline.
  • One study revealed that people believe their own self-disclosures are more accurate than how others describe them.
  • The more important we deem our self-disclosures, the more we accurate we believe them to be.

The bias blind spot refers to (most people's) belief that the self is less susceptible to psychological biases than others. Research shows that this arises, in part, because people use different mechanisms when evaluating themselves than they use when evaluating others.

The "introspection illusion"

Specifically, when evaluating themselves, people tend to rely on their own thoughts, emotions, and intentions, whereas for others, they tend to rely on behaviours.

Basically focusing on behaviours is a more accurate baseline when determining how people will act than intentions, thoughts, and emotions. Yet, people tend to believe that their own introspections are more valuable tools for predicting their own behaviours. This is referred to as the "introspection illusion."

Testing bias in self-disclosure

Research headed by Emily Pronin, professor of psychology at Princeton University, tested whether people are biased in their beliefs about disclosing personal information. Their basic hypothesis was that people will tend to think their own revelations relating to personal values would be more effective at describing who they are than others' personal disclosures.

In Study 1, participants made an audio recording of values that were important to them and listened to the recording of one other participant. They were then asked to answer questions about themselves such as, "How much do you think this recording reveals who you really are and what you are really like?" on a 1 (not at all) to 7 (a lot) scale, or parallel questions about the person's recording they listened to. People thought their own recordings were more effective at revealing who they really are.

Further studies found that this was specific to when people revealed important values. The more deeply people held those values, the more this self/other bias occurred.

What this could mean for relationships

This has interesting implications for relationships. Basically, people will tend to think they are revealing more than their partner. Their partner will think they too are revealing more. The more important the values are being disclosed, the stronger this effect will be.