Do people know how they behave?

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Behavioral acts constitute the building blocks of interpersonal perception and the basis for inferences about personality traits. How reliably can observers code the acts individuals perform in a specific situation? How valid are retrospective self-reports of these acts? Participants interacted in a group- discussion task and then reported their act frequencies, which were later coded by observers from videotapes. For each act, observer-observer agreement, self-observer agreement, and self-enhance- ment bias were examined. Findings show that (a) agreement varied greatly across acts; (b) much of this variation was predictable from properties of the acts (observability, base rate, desirability, Big Five domain); (c) on average, self-reports were positively distorted; and (d) this was particularly true for narcissistic individuals. Discussion focuses on implications for research on acts, traits, social perception, and the act frequency approach.

Source: “Do People Know How They Behave? Self-Reported Act Frequencies Compared With On-Line Codings by Observers” from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

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