Seeing ourselves and seeing others

From Marginal Revolution:

Many of our errors… stem from a basic mismatch between how we analyze ourselves and how we analyze others.  When it comes to ourselves, we employ a fine-grained, highly contextualized level of detail.  When we think about others, however, we operate at a much higher, more generalized and abstract level… So, there are two mismatches: we aren’t quite sure how others are seeing us, and we are incorrectly judging how they see themselves.

barry manilowWhich reminded me of the Spotlight Effect, in which we think people notice us much more than they actually do.

This was explored in various experiments, including one where someone had to wear a Barry Manilow t-shirt to a party with their peers. The result?

Though the student was convinced that the “embarrassing” clothing would be noticed by at least half the people, follow-up interviews found that less than 50% of the group recalled the shirt.

Ditto bad hair days:

[S]tudents rated their classmates on whether they looked better or worse than usual. The results show that the raters were less aware of variations in appearance than were the students they scored. Most people just don’t notice when we’re not looking our best or worst.

What’s struck me about this is that truly seeing ourselves and seeing others – especially at work – is something I find helps form strong and effective relationships with people. To be honest, part of me is amazed at how typical it seems to be to have such little understanding of ourselves and of others.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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