Researchers found evidence that we don’t understand ourselves and we think. Here are some findings:
1. Your motives are often a complete mystery to you.
To measure unconscious inclinations, psychologists can apply a method known as the implicit association test (IAT), where experimenters seek to determine how closely words that are relevant to a person are linked to certain concepts.
The methods designed to elicit automatic reactions reflect the spontaneous or habitual components of our personality. Conscientiousness and curiosity, on the other hand, require a certain degree of thought and can therefore be assessed more easily through self-reflection.
2. Gaining some distance can help you know yourself better.
literature on mindfulness meditation shows improvement on one’s self-knowledge. It helps by overcoming two big hurdles: distorted thinking and ego protection. Gaining insight into our unconscious motives can enhance emotional well-being. Our sense of well-being tends to grow as our conscious goals and unconscious motives become more aligned or congruent.
3. Insecure people tend to behave more morally.
Drazen Prelec, a psychologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explains such findings with his theory of self-signaling: what a particular action says about me is often more important than the action’s actual objective.
People who feel insecure about whether they have some positive trait tend to try to prove that they do have it. Those who are unsure of their generosity, for example, are more likely to donate money to a good cause. This behavior can be elicited experimentally by giving subjects negative feedback—for instance, “According to our tests, you are less helpful and cooperative than average.” People dislike hearing such judgments and end up feeding the donation box.
4. If you think of yourself as flexible, you will do much better.
People’s own theories about who they are influence how they behave. One’s self-image can therefore easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has spent much time researching such effects. Her takeaway: if we view a characteristic as mutable, we are inclined to work on it more. On the other hand, if we view a trait such as IQ or willpower as largely unchangeable and inherent, we will do little to improve it.
According to one influential theory, our tendency for self-deception stems from our desire to impress others. To appear convincing, we ourselves must be convinced of our capabilities and truthfulness. Supporting this theory is the observation that successful manipulators are often quite full of themselves.
Doctor of Pharmacy, author of The Art of Good Enough. She writes to inspire women to design their own fate. Her writings and interviews have been featured on MSNBC, Thrive Global, Working Mother magazine, Parentology, and The Times of India.