Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1998, Vol. 74, No. 5, 1337-1349
Copyright 1998 by the American Psychological Association, Inc. 0022-3514/98/$3.00
Do People Know How They Behave? Self-Reported Act Frequencies Compared With On-Line Codings by Observers
Samuel D. Gosling, Oliver E John, and Kenneth H. Craik University of California, Berkeley Richard W. Robins University of California, Davis
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 groupdiscussion 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-enhancement 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.
"You interrupted my mother at least three times this morning" exclaims Roger. "That's not true," responds Julia, " I only interrupted her once !" And so the discussion continues. Disagreements about who did and did not do what are commonplace in social interactions. When such disagreements arise, whom should we believe? Perhaps Julia was distorting the truth to paint a favorable picture of herself. Alternatively, Roger may remember that Julia interrupted his mother, when really the conversation was interrupted by a telephone...