Do we know each other as well as we think we do?

Self-knowledge is one of the capacities of the human being which is defined by his capacity to determine all the aspects that make up the essence of the individual, to shape his identity, his needs and his concerns, as well as explain the type of reasoning and reactions that the person initiates when faced with a given situation.

The ability to observe oneself allows one to predict one’s own behavior in general and he approaches the individual to get a global idea of ​​”who he is” and “how he is”. However, knowing yourself is not as easy as it may seem.

    Why is it difficult for us to develop self-knowledge?

    Contrary to the widespread belief about the ease with which human beings possess themselves to define themselves objectively, the latest scientific findings seem to indicate the opposite.

    Below we see the different explanations that the research conducted in this regard has been used to help us understand why it is difficult for us to know.

    1. Change of perspective in the face of a divergence

    Several studies seem to conclude that humans he tends to confuse the degree of objectivity with which he makes judgments about his own conduct. In order to maintain a positive self-image, people tend to be benevolent about how we think about ourselves, and we are also unaware of the subjectivity and biases with which we interpret our attitudes or our attitudes. behaviours.

    In this way, it is easier for us to observe a certain error if it is made by a third party than if we have made the same error. In short, it seems that the capacity for introspection is an illusion, since it is distorted by unconscious processes.

    This was demonstrated by Pronin and his team at Princeton University (2014) with several samples of experimental subjects in which they were asked to rate their own behavior and that of others in different tasks: in the experimental situation, the probandos continued to describe – they were seen as impartial even when they had to make judgments and critiques on various aspects of the proposed task.

    Likewise, this does not occur in subjects who experienced an aversive event in childhood, which led to the development of precarious functioning based on negative self-report.

    According to the “assertiveness theory”, people with low self-esteem seek to present a detrimental image of themselves to others with the aim that it is coherent and reaffirms the self-image that they themselves possess of their person. This is linked to the contributions proposed by Festinger (1957) on “cognitive dissonance”, where the degree of divergence between attitude and behavior produces such discomfort that the individual tends to try to minimize it through different strategies, either by modifying their behavior or by modifying the beliefs on which they base their attitude.

    On the other hand, the studies of Dunning and Kruger in 2000 gave rise to a theoretical approach which they called the “Dunning-Kruger effect” the greater the incompetence of a person, the weaker his capacity to achieve it. According to this research, of the subjects who participated in the experimental situation, only 29% correspondence was obtained between the correct self-perception of intellectual capacity and the actual value obtained in the individual CI (IQ).

    In other words, it seems that once again, in order to maintain a positive self-image, “negative” characteristics or traits tend to be largely ignored. Related to the latter problem, another team of researchers found more recently that people who have a moderate positive image (and not exaggerated, as noted above) tend to have higher levels of well-being and self-esteem. high cognitive performance in specific tasks.

      2. Tests to assess personality traits

      Traditionally, in some areas of psychology, so-called implicit or covert techniques have been used to define personality traits, such as projective tests or implicit association tests such as TAT ​​(Thematic Appreciation Test).

      The basis for this type of testing lies in its thoughtless or rationed natureAs it seems to be more revealing about the subject itself, these characteristics or characteristics are expressed in a reflexive or automatic way when there is no possible alteration influenced by the most thoughtful or rational analysis that can. provide other self-assessment or questionnaire tests.

      Science has recently found a nuance in this, arguing that not all personality traits are objectively reflected implicitly, but appear to be facets that measure extraversion or sociability and neuroticism which aspects are best measured using these types of techniques. This is explained by the Media Back team at the University of Münster, as these two traits are more related to automatic impulses or responses of desire.

      On the contrary, the traits of responsibility and openness to experience are generally measured more reliably through self-assessments and more explicit testing, since the latter traits fall within the domain of the intellectual or cognitive, and non-emotional Case.

      3. Search for stability in a changing environment

      As stated above, the human being tends to deceive himself to achieve a state of coherence in relation to his own identity. An explanation of the motivations which lead the individual to adopt this type of functioning is linked to maintaining a core of stability (his own identity) in the face of such a variable and changing environment that surrounds him.

      Thus, an adaptive resource as a species lies in the maintenance of self-perception in these social contexts so that the external image offered coincides with the internal image. Apparently, experts conclude that the perception of one’s own character as a rigid, unchanging and static phenomenon brings security to the individual and facilitates the ability to orient oneself with a minimum of order in an uncertain context, as is the outside world.

      However, a rigid operation it is often associated with a poor ability to tolerate uncertainty and frustration, Which is generated when reality differs from personal expectations, all of which leads to increased emotional distress. In short, under the pretext of acquiring a greater degree of security and well-being, today’s human being achieves precisely the opposite effect: an increase in his own worries and in the level of anxiety.

      As a final note, the lines above add nuance to the so-called “self-fulfilling prophecy, that people tend to behave according to the image they present of themselves. The nuance lies in the fact that the application of this theoretical principle takes place when the cooking is variable, but not when it is static.

      Thus, as Carol Dweck (2017) observed in a study conducted by Stanford University in California, faced with innate personal characteristics (such as will or intelligence), the motivation invested to strengthen it is less than before. to change traits (eg usually the case with own weaknesses).

      The benefits of meditation and mindfulness

      Erika Carlson studied the relationship between habitual practice of mindfulness meditation training and the ability to be objective in self-assessment, finding a positive correlation between the two.

      Apparently, this type of practice allows you to distance yourself and his own cognitions in order to be able to analyze more rationally the characteristics and traits that make up an individual’s “I”, because they allow the subject to detach himself from these thoughts and messages, assuming that he can let them pass without s ‘identify. with them to observe them simply without judging them.


      The preceding lines have shown that the beings humans tend to alter their self-image as a defense mechanism or “survival” against the demands of the environment in which they interact. The contributions of the theories of cognitive dissonance, The Self-fulfilling Prophecy, the Dunning-Kruger effect, etc., are just a few phenomena which show the lack of objectivity with which individuals work out the definition of their own identity.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Ayan, S. The essence of jo. In the mind and the brain. Vol 92 (2018), pp. 31-39.
      • Brookings, JB and Serratelli, AJ (2006). Positive illusions: positive correlation with subjective well-being, negative correlation with a measure of personal growth. In Psychological Reports, 98 (2), 407-413.
      • Hansen K., Gerbasi M., Todorov A., Kruse E., and Pronin E. People claim objectivity after knowingly using the Bias Personality Strategies and Social Psychology Bulletin. Vol 40, number 6, pages 691 – 699. First published February 21, 2014.
      • Pronin, E. (2009). The illusion of introspection. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 1-67.

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