Unwilling to see ourselves

We do not see yourselves as others see us at least as far as body language is concerned. The British Psychological Society Research Digest reported on the work led by W. Hofmann (here). People were video taped and the recording shown to the subject and to others.

…The premise of the new study is the tip-of-the-iceberg idea that what we know about ourselves is fairly limited, with many of our impulses, traits and beliefs residing below the level of conscious access. The researchers wondered whether people would be able to form a truer picture of themselves when presented with a video of their own body language… they weren’t able to.

…What was going on? Why can’t we use a video of ourselves to improve the accuracy of our self-perception? One answer could lie in cognitive dissonance - the need for us to hold consistent beliefs about ourselves. People may well be extremely reluctant to revise their self-perceptions, even in the face of powerful objective evidence.

…”When applied to the question of how people may gain knowledge about their unconscious self, the present set of studies demonstrates that self-perceivers do not appear to pay as much attention to and make as much use of available behavioural information as neutral observers,” the researchers said.

This seems a fairly general situation. We are often very surprised at how we sound on recording as well as how we look. And we are often surprised at how others assess our attitudes and motivations.

One thought on “Unwilling to see ourselves

  1. I remember th4 first thing I notice was how my voice sounded in the recording machine, this does certainly not fit in the “Unwilling to see ourselves”. I can’t relate this to will at all, I can relate it to listening in a way that others don’t (due to physical reasons).
    On the other side there are things we purposely avoid to see in order not to feel our self bad about our self. Very interesting topic, I always reflect about outsiders persepsions compared to yours about your own person. I did experiment with people asking what they thought about different aspects of my self, and many answers where incredibly different. But this could be due to oneself acting in life as how it wants the rest of the word to see as like, or given the title of this post..

    JanetK: The research was about posture/gesture/body-language and not voice. I put in the voice bit and I have to agree with you that hearing from the inside and hearing from the outside are very different and that difference is much of the surprise in a tape recording. When I wrote that, I was thinking of my husband who is surprised by how much he talks and a friend who was surprised with how often he interrupted. Both of them had been teased about their ways of dominating a conversation and so, know that a tape recorder was on, they were trying to avoid being dominant. They really couldn’t believe the result. But then they did recognize how they sounded to others once they heard the recordings. So you are right – the voice surprise has nothing to do with the topic and the research. Thanks for pointing this out.

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