When it comes to assessing your own personality, you might imagine you're ever so slightly biased towards yourself — or, if you're on the self critical side, you might expect to cast your personality in a more negative light. But as it turns out, your perception of your own personality is probably pretty much spot on, according to an analysis of studies by researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough. There really is no better judge of you, it would seem, than you.
The researchers performed the survey in order to assess the accuracy of self-report questionnaires, the most common method of personality assessment in current studies. "It's widely assumed that people have rose-coloured glasses on when they consider their own personality," said Dr. Brian Connelly, an associate professor in the university's management department and one of the study authors. As a result, studies into personality that rely on self-reporting are often flagged as potentially skewed.
To test this assumption, the researchers analysed 160 existing studies to determine whether the participants' take on their own personalities lined up with the way other people perceived them. And for the most part? The participants self-reported accurately. They weren't especially inclined to "self-enhance" across the majority of the "big five" personality traits: conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience, and extraversion. Dr. Connelly noted that people did overstate a specific aspect of their openness, but only to a very small degree.
For the most part, people's assessments of their own personalities aligned closely with the assessments of outsiders, with one exception: the perception of absolute strangers. According to Dr. Connelly, the finding "suggests that people are much more critical of those they're unacquainted with." Which makes sense — has anyone ever been meaner to you than the impatient woman behind you in the queue at Tesco?
So why don't we have an inflated — or deflated — perception of our own personalities? "People are generally attuned to the impressions they convey," explained Dr. Connelly. "Some people may stray toward self-enhancement, or in the opposite direction with self-effacement, but there are social costs associated with both that makes the general trend for people to be accurate." Basically, it pays to have a pretty solid grasp on how you come across.
While the general trend is to assess yourself accurately, there are still those who "self-enhance," the study found. And that's interesting in itself: why is it that some people perceive themselves in an overly positive light, and does that bias have any impact on their daily lives? That's a question Dr. Connelly intends to study next. "It's important to know if self-enhancers perform worse on the job or have more trouble in school," he said. "It could be they don't internalize negative information about themselves or even totally forget about it altogether, both of which could have negative outcomes."
Assuming you're not one of the rare self-enhancers (or self-effacers), you're probably safe to relax about your own personality. No, you don't think you're a nice person because you're biased towards yourself — you really are just that lovely.