Cognitive Neuroscience

How well do people know themselves?
Answered by Discovery Fit & Health
  • Discovery Fit & Health

    Discovery Fit & Health

  1. People know their inner thoughts and emotions, but most people lack the ability to judge whether they possess desirable and undesirable characteristics. When it comes to traits like intelligence, goodness and attractiveness, others may know us much better than we know ourselves. That doesn't mean our friends are experts on us -- we often overestimate how much people can tell about our inner thoughts and emotions. For example, you may be scared to death on a first date, but you probably have the ability to mask most of your nervous energy. But when it comes to an objective point of view on how you present yourself, then your closest friends may be the authorities.

    The acceptance that we may not know ourselves as well as others sometimes do is one of the arguments used in designing tests to measure emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability a person has to identify, understand, express and appropriately control his or her emotions. It also refers to the ability to recognize and understand others' emotions. The concept is being used not only in psychology but by organizations in making hiring, promotion and team-building decisions. Some tests rely completely on self-reporting, and others use information from the person's self-reporting and from others who know him or her.

    Being self-aware is part of emotional intelligence -- we each need to know how our emotions and resulting behaviors and actions appear to and affect others before we can regulate those emotions. Psychologists have studied humans' self-awareness and self-esteem for years, and in the past few decades, there has been renewed interest in the self and personal well-being. These more recent theories have found that children often build self-concepts based on how they judge others perceive them [source: Emory University].

    Could it be that our concerns about how others judge us warp our perceptions to extremes? A survey of thousands of college students found that they overestimated their grade averages and were overconfident, believing they could accomplish more -- and do things better -- than they really could. They also would feel let down when they found out the grades they ranked as above average really were at or below average [source: Irvine].

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