Illusions of Self Knowledge

July 2012
With Kathrine Hansen; Handbook of Self-Knowledge, ed. Simine Vazire and Timothy Wilson; Guilford Press

In the discussion that follows, we first explore various illusions of self-knowledge and the role of inappropriate reliance on introspection in fostering these illutions. We begin by looking at the ways in which people misperceive things about themselves, such as traits and abilities, as a result of their systematic focuso n internal information. These misperceptions commonly involve self-aggrandizing distortions that stem from people placing too much weight on things such as politive intentions as opposed to actual behavior. We then turn more directly to people's inappropriate faith in what they can learn about themselves by "looking inward," suggesting that a major illusion about self-knowledge is that self-knowledge itself derives from the unique ability to access one's own mental processes. After reviewing these major pitfalls in self-knowledge, the chapter examines their implications for social interaction - with a focus on consequences for interpersonal intimacy and social conflict. Finally, we describe a number of ways, rooted in the theoretical underpinnings of this chapter, in which illusions of self-knowledge may be overcome.